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Monday, Mar 30, 2015

No raining on Harris' parade to the top


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It's hardly surprising that Springstead's Bobby Harris returned from Jacksonville with a state championship in May.

After a breakout sophomore season in which he twice tied a school record with a 6-6 in the high jump, and finished tied for second in the state at 6-4, it stood to reason that the Eagle would soar to new heights and challenge for a state crown in 2013.

The 17-year-old from Spring Hill did jump higher, and more than challenged for a state title. It just didn't happen at the same time.

Having proved himself the state's finest high jumper in Class 3A, Harris was a runaway choice to repeat as Hernando Today's Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

"It's great winning it again," Harris said. "I'm hoping to win it for a third time next year. I want to break seven feet next year. That's my goal. I think I can do it."

Based on his season-best of 6-9, achieved at the Central Invitational on March 19 and making him the sole owner of the school mark, he's not far off.

Amazingly, he only needed to leap 6-2 to become a state champ, just the second in school history.

"The conditions were not the best," Harris said. "Winning was great, but only jumping 6-2 was a little bit of a downer. I wanted a better height. But I won it. I'm happy with that."

His comment on the conditions, based on results and firsthand accounts, is a severe understatement.

The University of North Florida's Hodges Stadium was besieged by heavy rain and winds that day and the next, when it hosted the 4A FHSAA Finals.

Following the meet, Harris compared the weather to a monsoon. Springstead girls head coach Joel Myers said, "It was like having a track meet in a tropical storm."

A total of 16 boys competed in high jump, and 13 failed to clear the relatively simple height of 6-0, completely scratching out.

Celebration's Jhonny Victor, the top seed, started out at 6-2 and couldn't get over the bar cleanly on three attempts.

Only Harris and Lake Mineola's Avery Brown got over 6-0. Then Harris cleared 6-2. Brown didn't. Harris took his cracks at 6-4, but it was already over.

"I've never jumped in anything like that before," Harris said. "When it has rained that hard before, the meet has always been canceled.

"I just wanted to place. I knew there were some great jumpers out there. I just worried about what I could do, not what they could do. To win it was one thing, but I wanted to be satisfied with myself."

Harris joined pole vaulter Joel Nunag, a state champ in 1989, as the only Springstead athletes - male or female - to earn a state title in track.

Though Harris pulled of the feat in a less than ideal setting, it's hard to brush off the accomplishment as a fluke.

As a state co-runner-up in 2012, he was the highest returning placer in 3A. His season-best height was surpassed by no one within the classification, according to

"I'd like to say it was unexpected but the type of kid he is, we came into the season knowing he'd do something special," Springstead boys coach Brandon Wright said. "I believed it whole-heartedly because I knew he believed it.

"Last year 6-6 was his white whale; 6-6 was the expectation this year."

Wright can talk endlessly about the work ethic of Harris, who has a high jump pit at his home and continuously hones his craft.

"Every year for some reason I gain a little more spring," Harris said. "I jumped a little higher this year. My form got a lot better. This year I'm going to work on my approach."

At 5-foot-11 he has some length, and combined that with his vertical to have a solid first varsity season in basketball. He averaged 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds.

But the track is certainly where he has made his name. He's a two-time county champion and added a district title in high jump this year. He also qualified for regionals in triple jump, though he opted not to compete.

In high jump, he tied for second in the region with Kyle Forchion of Land O' Lakes. Victor came in first at 6-8, and figured to be Harris' chief competitor at states had Mother Nature not intervened.

Both will be seniors this coming school year. However, in the tentative district assignments released by the FHSAA this week, Celebration was moved up to 4A while Springstead remained in 3A, seemingly putting an end to that budding rivalry.

Of course, new challengers could always arise as Harris attempts to become the first repeat male state champion in Hernando County history.

Hernando's Kevin Fitzpatrick won the discus in 1986 and 1988, and a fellow Leopard known only as "Pearson" in FHSAA records captured the 100, 220 and 440 in 1915 and 1917.

Central's Tikiera Relaford was a back-to-back high jump champ in 2010-11 on the girls side.

But Harris seemed more interested in his goal of reaching 7-0, and also has an eye on something else.

"Right now I'm looking at whoever is interested in me and whoever offers me the best scholarship, or if I even get a scholarship," Harris said. "I'm hoping to do (track) in college. If I don't get a scholarship, I'll definitely walk on to a team, without a doubt."

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By the numbers: Bobby Harris

Year Event Season best

Fr HJ 5-10

So HJ#^ 6-6*

Jr HJ#&! 6-9*

* County season high

# Denotes county champion

^ Denotes state runner-up

& Denotes district champion

! Denotes state champion

By the numbers: Hernando County boys state champs

Name School Year Event

Blackburn, Fred Hernando 1963 1 mile

Bryant, Errol Hernando 1981 Discus

Capel, John Hernando 1997 100 meter

Capel, John Hernando 1997 200 meter

Deen, Tom Hernando 1970 100 yard

Fitzpatrick, Kevin Hernando 1986 Discus

Fitzpatrick, Kevin Hernando 1988 Discus

Harris, Bobby Springstead 2013 High jump

Harris, DuJuan Central 2007 Long jump

Harris, DuJuan Central 2007 Triple jump

Hernando Hernando 1915 880-yard relay

Hope Hernando 1918 440 yard

Kursteiner, Mike Nature Coast 2006 High jump

Lee, Kurt Central 2003 Pole vault

Major, Brian Hernando 1999 1,600 meter

Nunag, Joel Springstead 1989 Pole vault

Pearson Hernando 1915 100 yard

Pearson Hernando 1915 220 yard

Pearson Hernando 1915 440 yard

Pearson Hernando 1915 Shot put

Pearson Hernando 1917 100 yard

Pearson Hernando 1917 220 yard

Pearson Hernando 1917 440 yard

Spangler, Paul Hernando 1992 3,200 meter

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