Morris returns to action after bout with virus

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, January 31, 2021

FAYETTEVILLE — After recovering from a bout with covid-19, former University of Arkansas NCAA pole vault champion Sandi Morris is ready to get back to competition.

Morris, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist and 2018 World Championships gold medalist, will make her indoor season debut in today’s American Track League meet at the Randal Tyson Track Center.

It’s the second of four consecutive Sundays that Arkansas is hosting a professional meet, and it will be televised live on ESPN2 from 1-3 p.m.

Sunday's Ticket

WHAT American Track League

WHEN 1-3 p.m

WHERE Randal Tyson Track Center, Fayetteville

WHO Some of the top professional track and field athletes in the world, including Arkansas volunteer assistant coach Ryan Crouser — the 2016 Olympic gold medalist in the shot put who set a world indoor record last week — and former Razorback NCAA pole vault champion Sandi Morris, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist.

TV Live coverage on ESPN2

NOTEWORTHY This is a made-for-television event. Fans are not allowed because of coronavirus safety protocols.

Morris and her husband, Olympic long jumper Tyrone Smith, quarantined in their Fayetteville home for two weeks after both tested positive for covid-19 in early January.

“Covid didn’t hit me very hard,” Morris said. “I basically had a cold, but a complete loss of taste and smell. That was extremely weird.”

Morris has a weight room in her garage and is able to work on vaulting in her backyard, but she didn’t train while quarantined on the advice of her physical therapist.

“He said, ‘Do not work out, even at your house. Don’t do anything because there’s a risk of heart problems, inflammation in your heart,’ ” Morris said. “It was frustrating, because I felt fine, and as an athlete when you feel fine, you think, ‘I’m invincible. I can work out at home.’

“But I didn’t do anything. Maybe a few sets of crunches, but that’s it, I promise.”

Before Morris resumed training, she had an electrocardiogram and was medically cleared.

“Getting covid forced me to sit down and chill for a couple of weeks,” she said. “Now I feel really fresh.”

Morris said she’ll be vaulting with a new set of poles today and going with a long approach on the runway.

“Now maybe I’m ready to do something big,” she said. “I don’t know. We’ll see how my body responds.”

Rather than traveling to compete at meets around the world, Morris has been training at home for the last few months. Her last competition prior to today was at a meet in early September in Greenville, S.C., utilizing the pole vault pit she and her father, Harry Morris, built in her parents’ neighborhood.

“As much as I travel, I am kind of a homebody because I’ve got all my animals and my plants,” said Morris, who has pet snakes, dogs, lizards, birds and fish. “I love being at home. It’s kind of my little oasis.

“So I feel like it’s been good for me to be able to stay at home and work with my coach [Arkansas assistant Bryan Compton]. This has been a great opportunity to work on my vault, and I feel I’m going to see those improvements in the upcoming season.”

Morris set her personal-best of 16 feet, 5 inches in 2016 at a Diamond League meet in Brussels, Belgium.

“I feel like I’ve made more changes in the last six months than I have in the last four years,” Morris said. “We’re working on a lot of things, and I feel if I can make them happen, I’m ready for that breakthrough. That breakthrough I’ve been looking for since 2016.

“I haven’t PRed since 2016. I don’t like that. I want to change that.”

Morris was a color commentator for ESPN’s telecast of last week’s American Track League meet in Fayetteville.

“It definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, because I was really nervous,” Morris said. “But I enjoyed it, and I think it was good practice for the future. Because I don’t know, maybe I’ll end up in broadcasting some day.”

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