Multisport athletes share the benefits of competing on varied stages

By Dan Arritt     5/24/2018

Over the past few decades, athletes have become less inclined to participate in multiple sports. 

Malik McMorris doesn’t fall into that category. The former Mater Dei two-sport star has continued to successfully alternate between football and track and field at the college level. 

McMorris is the starting fullback for the California football team, appearing in all 37 games during his first three seasons with the Golden Bears. 

During the spring, he competes in the shotput and discus.  

He finished third in the discus at the Pac-12 championships on May 13 at Stanford, and placed sixth in the shotput a day earlier. 

McMorris told the Pac-12 Network following the spring football game on April 28 that balancing two sports is difficult, but remains doable if he stays on a strict regimen. He practices with the football team on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the spring, and with the track team on Tuesday and Thursdays. 

“It’s something I’m used to,” he said. “I’ve never really had a break in my life, since the third grade, when I picked up track and I was just doing three sports throughout. … I just love it. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t be doing it.” 

McMorris is even convinced his track workouts give him an advantage on the football field. Much of the weight training he does in preparation for his throwing events also helps him get off the snap with more power and acceleration. 

“We have a lot of Olympic lifts and a lot of explosions, so that’s why I think I have an edge out here on the field, in terms of some of the people I play against,” he said. “I’m lifting four times a week with track, just working on my explosion and getting my strength numbers up.” 

The Pac-12 championships were also a time for Stanford women’s pole vaulter Kaitlyn Merritt to shine. 

The former two-time state champion at Santa Margarita finished second in the event with a final height of 13 feet 10 inches, helping the Cardinal finish third. Merritt came up short in her three tries at 14 feet, a barrier she cleared for the first time on May 3, becoming the second women’s vaulter in Stanford history to clear that height. 

Merritt has been setting herself apart in the pole vault ever since she set the freshman state record in her first meet with the Eagles, clearing 12-10 1/4 to break an eight-year-old record. 

Maddie McDonald capped her college career with a lifetime-best performance for Cal Poly in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Big West Conference championships on May 11 at Cal State Northridge. 

The former three-sport athlete at Rosary finished third in the obstacle-strewn event in 10:40.53, helping the Mustangs finish fifth in the team standings. 

The only Cal Poly runners who have gone faster in the event are Diana George in 2014 (10:15.93) and Leanne Fogg in 2011 (10:17.24). 

McDonald put herself third on that list back in March, when she finished second in 10:43.60 during a three-way meet against UC Santa Barbara and UC Riverside. 

McDonald displayed her adaptability as a senior at Rosary, when she went out for cross-country for the first time and became the first runner from the school to qualify for state in eight years.