What seems overwhelming to many has become a normal spring routine for Brookwood senior Morgan Bentley, now in her fourth season of juggling two sports in the same season.
Each day, she heads to girls soccer practice right after the school day ends for technical work, small-sided games and other training, then cuts the session just short so she can head to the stadium for track and field practice. She works with the sprinters and jumpers for an hour or two after soccer ends.
Both programs have reaped the rewards of her talent — she is a Louisville recruit and an all-county midfielder in soccer and a defending state champion jumper in track and field.
“I know it sounds so hard, but at least the way I’ve done it, it’s been so much fun,” Bentley said. “I love both of my teams. It gives me a whole big family of athletes. I get to be friends with the soccer girls and friends with the track girls. It’s great. … Soccer gets me fit for track. And track makes me a standout in soccer by building my athleticism like speed, strength and agility. All of that carries over from track to soccer. In track, I can just run a 400 without practice because of soccer. It just keeps me fit. I don’t have to do track conditioning. I just have soccer, so that keeps me in shape.”
Bentley, also a 3.8 GPA student, credited her coaches with making the practice situation work, and not forcing her to give up one or the other.
“Morgan is an excellent soccer player, but an even better athlete,” Brookwood girls soccer coach Chad Carithers said. “She has been playing varsity soccer and running track since she was a freshman. The way she has been able to handle both at the same time and miss minimal time is such a testament to the kind of person she is. From Day 1, she has communicated to us coaches as to everything she is doing and that has made playing two sports at the same time easy for (track) Coach (Eric) Rovie and myself. I look forward to watching the success she will have her senior year and the next four years at Louisville.”
Soccer was the first sport for Bentley, who followed her two older sisters into it. She began as a 4-year-old and quickly advanced to travel soccer before eventually mixing track and field in when she was 10 or 11.
“I love track, but I love soccer way more,” said Bentley, who also plans to compete in soccer and track and field at Louisville unless the addition of the latter sport becomes too time-consuming.
It seemed inevitable that Bentley would find her way to track and field.
Her mother Kim went to the University of Virginia for the sport, and her father Dion (an assistant coach at Brookwood) broke national indoor and outdoor records in the long jump as a Pittsburgh high-schooler, and was an SEC champion in the event at Florida, where he also held indoor and outdoor marks — his outdoor long jump of 27 feet, 6 1/2 inches still stands on the Gators’ record list. He was ranked No. 8 in the world in the long jump at one point in his career.
“My dad has been my only coach through track,” Bentley said. “Everything I know about track I’ve learned from my dad.”
Because of her emphasis on soccer, track and field has never been the primary focus. She competes at the high school level and in summer track and field, but the bulk of the year is spent on soccer.
Despite that, she has made a huge mark on the Broncos’ program in her first three seasons. She was the state champion in the triple jump (39-6 1/2) and third in the long jump (18-4 1/4) last season as a junior.
“Morgan’s work ethic is amazing,” Rovie said. “She practices with the high school soccer team immediately after school, but generally comes down to the track right after soccer to do laps, run stadiums and take some jumps. Her ability to handle that level of work without fatigue or complaint is really impressive. I often see her on the track on Saturday or Sunday afternoons, running 400s on her off days, which tells you exactly what you need to know about her commitment. We understand that soccer is her main priority, and anything we can get from her on the track is simply a bonus for us. In an era of specialization, it’s pretty great to see an athlete like Morgan find success in multiple sports.
“She’s also a very friendly, kind and supportive teammate. Watching Morgan cheer on her competitors in the triple jump shows the level of generosity in her spirit. She absolutely wants to win, but she wants to beat her competitors at their best, which is a trait of a true winner.”