Harris makes strides at Miss. State

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 7, 2000

Mississippi State assistant track coach Reynaud Alexander can’t say enough about Bulldog freshman Kelvin Harris of Natchez. And that doesn’t even include Harris’ exploits on the track.

&uot;If you want to just sit down and draw up the type of kid you want to be around, Kelvin Harris is that kid,&uot; Alexander said. &uot;He’s the kind of kid every coach wants. He’s very hard working, intelligent, responsible and a leader. He’s the type of young man you want in your community.&uot;

Despite being a true freshman, Harris has proved to be the type of runner State wants on the track, as well.

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Going into this weekend’s Texas Relays, Harris has competed in three meets, winning the 110-meter high hurdles in the Bulldog Invitational in Starkville last Saturday with a time of 14.60.

In the 400-meter intermediate hurdles, Harris improved from 1:00.04 in the SEC Quad Meet in Tuscaloosa, Ala., to 57.47 in Starkville.

Harris also runs the third leg in the 4×100-meter relays. He also helped the 4×400-meter relay team to a pair of runner-up finishes.

During the indoor season, Harris won the 60-meter hurdles (8.41) in his collegiate debut at the Saluki Booster Club Invitational in Carbondale, Ill.

Alexander said Harris has been exceptional in every meet but two, which he takes the blame for in trying to change Harris’ style.

&uot;I tried to change Kelvin’s lead foot,&uot; Alexander said. &uot;I tried to get Kelvin to that first hurdle in seven steps instead of eight. But it didn’t work out and I messed up his rhythym. I needed to give him a little bit more time. I was trying to rush him. He just has exceptional athletic ability and coordination. And his desire is what makes him a successful athlete. He doesn’t believe in defeat.&uot;

Harris is still working hard to lose that one extra step.

&uot;I&160;have more of a quarter-miler stride than sprinter’s stride,&uot;&160;he said. &uot;But that’s something I will get down eventually. I’m working hard every day and I’m going to make up that difference.&uot;

Harris was runner-up in the Class 5A State 110-hurdles last year at Natchez High. He was a member of Natchez’s state champion 4×400 relay team.

&uot;I didn’t expect Kelvin to have as much participation here as he did in high school,&uot; Alexander said. &uot;He holds a lot of weight with this team and I didn’t expect it, but I love it.&uot;

Harris started jumping hurdles in high school after going out on the track with some friends and lining up to jump the hurdles. He then caught the eye of Natchez coach Henry &uot;Doc&uot; Woods.

&uot;Everybody was impressed, but it just came natural,&uot; Harris said.

Harris, the son of Rodney and Sandra Jenkins, said the adjustment to college track has not been easy.

&uot;When you are competing in such an elite conference as the SEC, you can’t just go out and run like you did in high school,&uot; Harris said.

The 6-foot-4, 176-pounder said the biggest adjustment was going from a 39-inch hurdle to a 42-inch hurdle.

&uot;That’s a big difference,&uot; he said.

Harris credits Alexander with improving his time in the hurdles.

&uot;He taught me many techniques, such as topping the hurdles,&uot; Harris said. &uot;He told me you never jump a hurdle, you hurdle a hurdle. He’s always teaching. He tells me to be a student of the game and has taught me a lot of the terminologies.&uot;

Harris said running track is just as much mental as physical.

&uot;And I’m getting mentally stronger,&uot;&160;he said. &uot;I go over in my mind how I am going to run the race before it begins. And I learn from my mistakes so I’ll know what to do next time to make my time better.&uot;

Harris, an honor student in high school who is majoring in microbiology, said he hopes to compete in the nationals and go on to the Olympic Games in the future.

Right now he is enjoying the life of a collegiate athlete, although he admits making time for studies and track is difficult.

&uot;It is awesome,&uot; Harris said. &uot;I love the traveling. It’s a whole new experience. It is tough keeping up with my studies, but I manage to do both.&uot;