Stephanie Morton will no longer be in her customary spot, clutching a stopwatch near the finish line during Rogers High School track and field meets this spring at Sparks Stadium.
Morton, 55, who had been the head coach of the Rogers girls track team since 1987, turned in her resignation earlier this month. The Rogers High graduate began her coaching career as an assistant in 1985 before she was named the head coach.
“When I first started coaching, it was hard and even weird for me to call our athletic director, Dick Halleen, by his name,” Morton said. “He was always Mr. Halleen to me, growing up. Now I have been coaching for the past 28 years. When you have done something for that long, it just becomes a way of life.”
Morton, who will retain her positions as a physical education and health and fitness instructor at Firgrove and Ridgecrest elementary schools, said walking away from the track team was a difficult decision. She thought about it during the fall but didn’t make her decision until Jan. 1.
“I feel good about the decision,” she said. “My husband and I want to get certified (as track officials) and would love to eventually work state meets and Pac-12 meets. That is something we’ll probably pursue.”
Morton also said she’s booked a trip to Hawaii during spring break, and that’s something she’s never been able to do in the past. She admitted it will be an odd feeling when she doesn’t leave Firgrove or Ridgecrest at the end of the school day for track practice at Rogers when the season begins March 3.
“I know it’s going to be strange,” she said. “It’s hard. I have already heard from some of the kids, and they were like, ‘Are you really not coming back?’
“It’s never a good time to leave,” Morton added. “Even though I feel sad about it, I feel it’s the right decision to do something else.”
Morton has enjoyed coaching against her 26-year-old daughter Jennifer Allen for the past three years. Allen coaches the Beamer Titans’ girls track team and has followed in her mother’s footsteps.
“It was so fun to coach against her,” Morton said. “That was special.”
“Track is such a fun positive sport,” she said. “Whether you are the fastest or the slowest runner out there, everyone improves and sets their PRs (personal records). There’s not a lot of judgment in the sport. I have worked with so many great coaches, athletes and administrators through the years. I have been to a lot of their weddings and am still in touch with a lot of them.”
Jennifer Allen was born in May during Stephanie’s first year as head coach, but it didn’t stop her from coaching the final month of the season.
“I had her (Jennifer), and then I was right back to coaching,” Stephanie said. “At the time, Jennifer Robertson was one of our best cross country and track athletes. She went on to be a Pac-10 champion at Washington State University. I named my daughter after her.”