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Tuesday, Mar 31, 2015

Springstead's Harris signs with UNF


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The University of Florida's Hodges Stadium has become a backdrop for Bobby Harris' greatest athletic achievements.

It seems fitting, then, that the Springstead senior has decided to make that venue, site of the FHSAA Finals in track and field the past two years, his home base when he begins his collegiate career.

This week Harris, the reigning Class 3A state champion in the high jump, signed with the UNF Ospreys, a Division I program out of Jacksonville.

"There's a lot less pressure. I don't feel as stressed or pressured anymore. I'm comfortable with the coaches and the school," Harris said. "I'm comfortable with the decision I made.

"UNF felt most comfortable. The coaches made me feel like they wanted me. The program is great. They had what I wanted academically."

Harris has been named Hernando Today's Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year the past two seasons, based on his emergence as one of the top high jumpers in the state.

After a nondescript freshman season in which his high was 5-10, he tied the school record of 6-6 and went on to tie for state runner-up as a sophomore.

Last year he set a new school mark of 6-9, which was also the high in the state for 3A, according to

Though the 2013 state meet was besieged by a brutal swirl of wind and rain, Harris was one of only two participants to record a successful leap.

It took a jump of just 6-2 for Harris to lay claim to Springstead's first state crown in 24 years.

As this current season approached, three main goals seemed to keep coming up in the conversation surrounding Harris.

First, he has a chance to become the county's first boy to win a state title in consecutive years. Second, he wants to clear 7-0.

But perhaps most importantly, especially from a big-picture standpoint, he wanted to find the right college.

It was a life-altering decision he admittedly labored over, particularly in recent weeks as coaches became increasingly antsy for him to make up his mind.

He wanted to stick to Florida, putting both UNF and USF in play, though he also gave consideration to the University of South Alabama in Mobile.

Following several discussions with his parents, Harris opted for the Ospreys. He'll major in biomedical, working toward becoming a pharmacist, and he's assured of continuing on in the sport that has become his passion.

"Track is pretty much my life," said the 5-foot-11 Harris, who was also a contributor for the Eagles in basketball. "Track and basketball are the two things I do. It turns out high jump is something I'm really good at. So I'll give my skills and ability to coaching, and hopefully I make it to higher heights."

"I'm thrilled for him," Springstead boys track coach Brandon Wright said. "I've been fortunate enough to coach him since his freshman year. I know it's something he was passionate about doing, jumping in college. He's found a program that's a great fit for him.

"If he keeps his work ethic up, with someone who will be a full-time jumping coach, he'll be a stud."

Though high jump figures to be his primary focus, Harris hopes to add another event at UNF. He was a regional qualifier in the triple jump in 2013.

This season he has already established personal bests in that event (43-1/2) and the long jump (20-10 1/2). His season high for the high jump is 6-8.

He still has plenty of time to build on those performances and attempt to end his time with the Eagles standing atop the podium at states.

That state meet will again take place at Hodges Stadium. It already holds some pleasant memories for Harris, and he'll have ample opportunity to create more.

"I'm hoping by my senior year of college, I want to at least get some kind of championship. I want to be a good leader and a good sportsman and set an example up there," Harris said, before conceding, "I'm not really worried about championships. I'm just hoping to do my best."

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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 state runner-up

& Denotes district champion

! Denotes state champion

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