BYU senior diver Ronald Morris.
Growing up he played soccer, basketball, hockey, racquetball, volleyball, ran track and surfed, but nothing seemed to stick until he tried diving.
La Palma, Calif., native, the middle of three children, exercise science major, Eugene, Ore., returned missionary, 5-foot-6 senior Ron Morris started diving at age 14 after following in his older brother’s footsteps.
“My brother is the daredevil in our family - he tries whatever he wants,” said Morris. “We would jump around on our grandmother’s diving board, and my brother would do a lot of flips.”
Morris’ mother found a parks and recreation diving league and signed up his brother. After seeing his older brother on the diving team, Morris wanted to try it as well.
From not getting asked to be on the junior team when he began diving to All-American status all four years of high school, Morris finally found his niche sport after trying every other.
After winning CIF twice and going to nationals many times, Morris was recruited by a few schools including BYU.
Morris came on a recruiting trip to BYU when 2004 Olympians Justin Wilcock and Rachelle Kunkel were diving for the Cougars. He was impressed with the caliber of divers that BYU produced, diving coach Keith Russell and how well the team treated him.
“Keith was a big influence of why I came because I knew he was a phenomenal coach,” said Morris. “I also really liked the guys here because they were really willing to get to know me, even though it was just a recruiting trip.”
After the recruiting trip, Morris was set on making Provo his home.
“I was always pretty sure that I wanted to come here,” said Morris. “I liked BYU and the environment and they gave me a diving scholarship, so I decided to come here.”
After diving for two years as a Cougar, Morris took a two-year break to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Eugene, Ore.
“I loved my mission,” he said. “It was a great experience, and I learned a lot of discipline and work ethic.”
He explains one of his most fascinating stories about a woman that had been investigating the church for a year and a half and told every missionary that would come by a different story of why she wouldn’t get baptized.
Morris got to the bottom of the problem, which was that she didn’t want to give up her coffee. After many visits he began to joke around with her about when she was going to “jump in the pool” to get baptized.
“The last day I was in that area my companion and I went over to her place and I told her I was going to be transferred the next day,” said Morris. “She then said, ‘It’s a good thing that we figured everything out because I want to get baptized tonight.’”
His companion and other missionaries had already set up everything to surprise Morris with her baptism before he left the area.
“I felt like I got sent to that area just to meet her and help her sort through the things that were keeping her from attaining membership in the church,” he said. “We just built a strong relationship of trust and moved on from there; I still keep in touch with her today.”
Morris is very grateful for his mission experience and describes it as something that helped him in every aspect of his life.
“It was just an incredible experience,” he said. “I came home and the caliber of my diving increased, I was able to excel in school better and my life was just about planned out.”
The first month back was hard on Morris’ body, smacking the water often as he tried to get back into diving.
“I wanted to do really well for the season so I jumped into it as fast as I could and took a beating for it,” said Morris. “I was glad that I did that, however, because I was able to focus on the technical things later on in the season.”
Long-time BYU diving coach Keith Russell feels like he has to get into Morris’ mind set to help him succeed.
“If I can somehow enter into his particular mind set we really do great stuff together,” said Russell. “I have to really get into it and think like he would because if I’m not, then it’s hard for him to totally respond in the full dimension that he can and needs to. I have to make sure I’m doing my part, but once that happens, it’s a great ride – it’s like catching a wave while surfing.”
Morris’ first year back, Russell must have gotten into his mind because he earned what he describes as his greatest diving accomplishment while at BYU: Mountain West Conference Diver of the Year, which was achieved after scoring his highest score on the 1-meter of his career, winning the event.
“I don’t know if you would call it luck – I felt really lucky but things just came together really well,” said Morris. “I was able to put every dive down. I was consistent and very happy with my performance, and I was also happy that my parents were there to watch it.”
Morris’ father, Tom, described the moment as exciting and a typical ‘Ron’ thing to do.
“It was really exciting to be there last year for Mountain West Conference Championships when he won Diver of the Year,” said Tom. “The funniest part of that was he always loses his sweats when he’s at a meet. They were calling his name for 10-15 minutes while he was in the locker room. Once again losing his sweats, he ran out in just his Speedo to receive his award.”
Countless hours in the pool not only helped him to dive better, but a certain lifeguard caught his eye. The 2008-09 season kept getting better and better for Morris, meeting “lifeguard girl” Kelly Reynolds, his future wife, and being married on April 25, 2009.
Now almost to the end of his senior season, Morris looks back fondly on his tenure with the BYU diving team. He will especially miss the friendships he has formed and the feeling he gets when nailing a dive.
“I know I’ll stay connected with my friends, but I will miss the feeling I get when I hit the water after a great dive,” he said. “It’s just the best feeling in the world to come up from a dive and know that the judges won’t be scoring lower than a 7.5 or 8. It’s hard to explain, but the sound, the feeling, the way you feel yourself go through the water, you come up and everyone is cheering – it is just a rush of happiness. It feels so good.”
Not only will Morris miss diving, but diving will miss Morris and his loyalty to the Cougar program.
“Ron has always tried to accomplish what we’re trying to do here at BYU,” said Russell. “There is nothing that I appreciate more than someone who is loyal and wants to stay the course. It’s been a privilege to work with him. He is such a great team captain, and it’s so nice to have someone to help you out. It has really been a great relationship.”
Morris also expressed enjoying getting to know Russell as a coach and a person.
“It is an honor to be coached by a man with so many accomplishments, so much knowledge and so much experience,” said Morris. “He really is like a saint. He is an incredible guy. If someone were to ask me to find something negative about him, I really don’t know what I would say. He has taught me so much in diving and in life. He has set such a great example to me and to everyone on the team on how to live your life in a spiritual manner.”
With Mountain West Conference Championships only two and a half weeks away, Morris has the goal of making it to Nationals.
“I have come close a few times, but I have never made it,” he said. “I am really excited this season and I think I can do it. I’ve been working really hard for it.”
After finishing up at BYU, Morris plans to go to a chiropractic school while Kelly goes to graduate school at the same time. The couple looks forward to having a big family and would love to move back to California – where both are from originally.