SE: The Human Mortar | Part 2

Pictured above: Ed Morland, K-State track and field javelin thrower from 1970-72, warms up at the KU Relays in 1971. All photos courtesy of Ed and Karen Morland.

Today’s story is the second of a two-part series on former Wildcat javelin thrower Ed Morland. To read yesterday’s story “The Human Mortar | Part 1” about Morland’s time in Vietnam please click here

Ed Morland always knew he wanted to go to K-State, but the Wildcat track team almost missed out on recruiting him. 

When he returned home to his family farm in Lancaster, Kansas, the summer following his two years in the U.S. Army, plenty of schools came calling. But K-State wasn’t one of them.

“I always wanted to go to K-State,” Morland said. “I was recruited by BYU, California, the University of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Tennessee, Nebraska, and we went all those places for visits. But I was a Kansas boy and K-State never called on me.”

Morland spent the summer of 1970 touring the country to find the perfect place to finish his collegiate career (he threw javelin two seasons at Highland Community College where he broke the National Community College record in 1967 before joining the military), but nowhere felt right. 

He wanted to go to K-State and his family wanted him to go to K-State, so his uncle decided to give the school a call. 

“My Uncle Duke Morland is a veterinarian who went to K-State for school,” said Morland. “Well, he called them and said, ‘If you guys don’t want to get beat all the time in the javelin, you’d better get a hold of my nephew.’ So anyways, that must have gotten (K-State field coach) Bill Favrow’s attention because he came out to my farm one afternoon.”

Morland sunk into his chair and let out a laugh as he reminisced back to Favrow’s visit. 

Morland and his family lived on a 160-acre farm, and the day Favrow came to visit, Morland was busy in the pasture trimming trees. 

“I had my steel pot liner on and I was wearing a pair of old Army boots; I looked pretty rough,” said Morland. “So anyway, Favrow came out there to the middle of the pasture where I was out cutting trees. He said he wanted to see me throw, so I warmed up a little bit.”

In his Army boots and all, Morland showed the Wildcat coach what he was made of.

“We lived up on a hill, then down the hill was a road and a highline, I must have gotten too excited because I threw the javelin and it went all the way to the highline!” Morland laughed. “Old Favrow said, ‘Well that’s good enough for me!”
That throw sealed the deal. Morland was set to go to K-State.

The following fall, Morland and his wife, Karen, moved to Manhattan, Kansas, where he began an exciting career with the Wildcats.

In his time at K-State, Morland quickly made a name for himself in the collegiate track and field ranks as he was a two-time All-American, placing sixth at the 1971 NCAA Championship and fourth in 1972. 

“I threw my farthest throw at the KU Relays when it was raining, and the mud ran everywhere. I threw 260 feet that day. It was the K-State record at the time,” said Morland proudly. That throw at the KU Relays was a career best for Morland and is still in the top-five best throws in Wildcat track and field history. “The guys really kind of looked up to me because I was older and I had just came back from Vietnam. I’ve got good memories, all good memories of K-State. I enjoyed competing. We had nice guys on the track team.”

Morland was one of two Wildcats, joining fellow 1972 All-American Jerome Howe (1,500-meter run), to compete at the 1972 Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon. He threw a 253’4” distance to place fifth in the Trials’ qualifying round, but threw a 236’9” the following day and finished ninth overall.

After the Olympic Trials, Morland took a few years off from the javelin. He had his sites set on a new dream. In 1978, he had saved enough money to buy his own farm; the same farm he still lives and works to this day.

But the 1980s marked a tough time for farmers, Morland said. The stress of farming mixed with a series of nightmares from his time in Vietnam took a toll on him. He took a visit to his local VA for help and told them what was going on. They suggested he take up a hobby of some sort.

“With all that stuff going on, I decided I wanted to start throwing the javelin again,” said Morland. “I learned about Masters competitions, you can compete with them when you turn 40. So I started competing again.” 

It was 1987 when Morland picked back up his javelin and began throwing again. He began competing in Masters Javelin competitions around the country. Once again, he excelled at throwing.

“I was pretty surprised because when I started throwing again I was pretty daggum good,” Morland said with a smile. “When my kids started college, they went down to Johnson County. My son threw the javelin there. I’d compete with them and he’d get first and I’d get second. All those young kids would say, ‘Who is this old guy!?”

Well, that old guy went on to break the Masters’ World Record at the age of 48 at a meet in Spokane, Washington, throwing 210’1” in 1994. The medal he won at that Masters meet remains his favorite of the many, many javelin medals hanging in his home. 

Though it has been exciting, Morland’s road hasn’t been an easy one. Yet from his time in Vietnam to his battle with Guillain-Barre syndrome in 2003 – an autoimmune disease so serious he lost all feeling from his waist down – he’s stayed strong and continued working hard. 

He kept himself in shape during his year in Vietnam even when that meant building his own workout equipment from pipes and cement, and, despite the fact his feet and legs would go numb, he stayed in shape while battling Guillain-Barre.

“I never did quit,” Morland said proudly. “I threw with numb feet, and I would fall down sometimes, but I never did quit.”

Since 2003, Morland has recovered and continues to throw the javelin any chance he gets. Along with competing in Masters javelin competitions, he also plays in three-on-three basketball tournaments and still plays basketball from time to time during open hours at the Rock Creek High School gym.  

Morland plans on competing in another Masters Javelin competition this spring.  

“I’ve got to get back in the weight room,” he said. “I haven’t been lifting lately because I’ve been so busy harvesting and taking care of the cattle; I’ve got 130 head of cattle. I still do quite a bit. I still farm my 700 acres, I have cows and calves and put up all the feed for them. But I enjoy it. I don’t make a lot of money, but there are a lot of things that are more important than money, and enjoying what you do is one of those things. I enjoy farming and I enjoy throwing the javelin.” 

Ed Morland won K-State Track and Field's Most Inspirational Field Man following the 1970-71 season.

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