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Saturday, Mar 28, 2015

Harris shakes off state disappointment


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Bobby Harris didn’t mince words describing his experience at states.

Two years removed from finishing as the runner-up in high jump, followed by a state title as a junior, the Springstead senior finished fifth at 6-4.

That was plenty good enough to earn a third state medal, concluding perhaps the most accomplished career in the Eagles’ history.

But for someone attempting to become the first repeat state champ in Hernando County boys track and field, Harris felt less than satisfied.

“I didn’t show up for states,” Harris said. “I didn’t jump my best; 6-4 was my worst showing of the year. I was really bummed to come in fifth. I could have won the whole thing.

“It was one of those days. It wasn’t my best day for jumping. I don’t know why, it just wasn’t my best day.”

Harris admitted to feeling angry with himself then, during the Class 3A FHSAA Finals on May 3 at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

But more than a month removed from that disappointment, in the days following his recent graduation, Harris was pleased to learn he was named Hernando Today Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year for the third straight season.

“It’s always great to win an award,” Harris said. “It’s a great feeling always to win.”

He would know. In Springstead’s 10 meets this season leading up to states, Harris finished first in the high jump every single time.

Along the way he collected a third consecutive county title, a repeat district crown and his first regional championship.

For good measure he added a county title in the triple jump, pacing the local circuit with a season-best 44-1 3/4, achieved while finishing sixth at regionals. It was his second time in as many years advancing out of the district in that event.

“I really started getting good (at triple jump) toward the end of the year. I started practicing more,” Harris said. “I’m hoping to do it in college. Hopefully get even better and be a two-event kid.”

Prior to the season, Harris signed a Division I scholarship with UNF, the same school that has hosted states the past several years.

He earned that through high jump. Though he set a personal and school record of 6-9 in 2013, this year he notched a season-best of 6-8, and did so at three prestigious meets: the Charles Johnson Invitational at Tampa-King on Feb. 22, the USF/George M. Steinbrenner Invitational on March 15, and the FSU Relays on March 21.

“I think if you ask him personally, he’d have mixed emotions about this year. But he earned himself a Division I scholarship. That’s more impressive than anything else,” Springstead head coach Brandon Wright said.

“This year he jumped 6-8 consistently. Last year he jumped 6-9, but (back then) it was like if we can get 6-6 consistently that’s where we wanted to be. He didn’t have one meet this year where he just exploded, but he should be proud of what he did this year.”

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A year ago Harris became just the second Eagle to garner a state crown. That assures his place within the school’s track lure even if his record eventually falls.

Not bad for someone who couldn’t even break 6-0 when he arrived on campus.

“My freshman year I didn’t even think track was my sport,” Harris said. “I was going to quit and do basketball. I never knew I could jump. But I’m proud I stuck with it and doing what I did.

“It was great knowing I was a state champion. That was my nickname: state champ. It was a great feeling being number one.

“I wanted to repeat as state champion really bad. But it didn’t happen. It made me realize, I need to put more work in and do my best in college.”

Not that work ethic has ever been an issue for Harris, who was mentored by a personal coach and has a high jump pit at his house.

“The kid wants to be great in everything he does,” Wright said. “There’s no quit. He doesn’t make excuses. From a coaching standpoint, you can’t ask for more than that.”

It makes sense, then, that Harris is already talking about honing his craft in preparation for college. He said he plans to start practicing immediately when he arrives at UNF and he’s shooting to surpass the 7-foot mark.

That attitude certainly served him well in high school, as he left a lasting legacy and a considerable void for the Eagles to fill.

“As far as track athletes, he’ll go down as one of the top Springstead athletes of all-time. I can’t say enough about him,” Wright said. “I don’t think you replace a guy like that. You look for other guys to step up.”

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By the numbers: Bobby Harris in high jump

Year Season best

Fr 5-10

So #^ 6-6*

Jr#&! 6-9*

Sr#&%$ 6-8*

* County season high

# Denotes county champion

& Denotes district champion

% Denotes regional champion

$ Denotes state medalist

^ Denotes state runner-up

! Denotes state champion

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