With healthy hamstring, Harris hopes for nationals

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

STARKVILLE &045; Four years into his collegiate career on the track, Kelvin Harris may have finally have found a comfort zone.

Not complacency, but more of a niche with the Mississippi State men’s track squad. Coming out of Natchez High School as a hurdler, he had to adjust to the hurdles being 42 inches high during his freshman and sophomore seasons, and during his junior season he started working with assistant coach Steve Dudley after predecessor Reynaud Alexander retired.

Now a seasoned track star with sights set on making the national meet in Sacramento, Calif., Harris and the Bulldogs go into the regional meet May 30-31 in Columbus, Ohio, primed for a strong finish.

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&uot;We’re pumped up about that,&uot; said Harris, who got edged out of the national meet last season in the 110 hurdles. &uot;My freshman year was a big change, and it took me a while to get used to track &045; until I got to the end of my sophomore year. It’s been a big change, but this year I’m trying to do all I can for the team. This is the best team we’ve had since I’ve been here. My coach tells us all the time this is the best men’s team he’s ever had, and he’s been coaching 15 or 16 years.&uot;

Harris, who also runs opening leg on the Bulldogs’ 1,600-meter relay team, did hit a snag earlier this month &045; a painful one. A pulled hamstring surfaced at the Penn Relays in mid-April, and he sat out a bit to get it back in shape.

Then at the Ole Miss Open on May 3 it started getting sore again. He ran at the SEC Championships over the weekend in an effort to get back in the groove.

&uot;We thought the problem had been solved after Penn,&uot; MSU head coach Al Schmidt said. &uot;Then we went to Ole Miss, he was running real fast and he hurt it again. He’s ready to start hurdling again this week for regionals. He’s really made some breakthroughs for us, and I think he can help us at nationals. If there’s any justice in the world, his hamstring will hold up.&uot;

Up until that point the hamstring was not a problem, and Harris’ time of 13.89 seconds in the 110 hurdles at the Texas Relays not only was his best time ever but was also below the regional qualifying mark of 14.40 seconds.

That’s good and all, but you know that race at Penn when the hamstring flared up? Had it not done so, that 13.89 could have been a thing of the past.

&uot;That was my fastest time so far. It won’t be my fastest,&uot; Harris said. &uot;When I was at Ole Miss, I was on pace to run a 13.68 when my hamstring pulled. That guy from Ole Miss (Antwon Hicks) has the fastest time in the nation, and I had him beat.

&uot;It started pulling on the second hurdle. I went over the third and fourth hurdles, and I stopped at the fifth hurdle.&uot;

His other duty is the mile relay, which could have done some damage at the SEC Championships until anchor man Jamel Ashley dropped the baton to disqualify the Bulldogs.

Harris runs the opening leg on it, and the team’s best time so far has been 3:06.68, also a regional qualifying mark.

&uot;I know people talk about the anchor on relay teams, but as far as I’m concerned the most important guy is your leadoff man,&uot; Schmidt said. &uot;He sets the tone for how the rest of the race plays out.&uot;

That top spot, too, has been a change for Harris. He ran all three relays in high school but was often the No. 3 leg, and he left for Starkville thinking his days of running with a baton would be over.

Now he’s teaming with Keston Nelson, Asley and LaChristopher Lewis with the hopes of getting to nationals. The time earlier was second-best in the nation, but it’s dropped to fifth-best.

&uot;I’ve been running first leg on an off since my freshman year,&uot; Harris said. &uot;The first and last legs have a lot of pressure. He put it on a senior, and I just try my best. But I like it. We’ve got an awesome 4×4. We ran the 3:06 at Penn Relays, but we didn’t split our fastest time. We could go 3:03 or 3:04. We’re working hard and going after it every day in practice. If you bring it to practice every day, you won’t have any problem at the meet.&uot;

A solid performance in both would not only finish Harris’ career a memorable one on the track, but off it as well. A microbiology major, he was named the track and field representative when State AD Larry Templeton holds monthly student-athlete meetings once a month.

So, you see, change is good.

&uot;He is so intelligent,&uot; Schmidt said. &uot;He understands when he’s out there hurdling must be perfect. There are always things you want in an athlete. You want them to be fast, dedicated and intelligent. There is no question Kevin is well-endowed in all three. With those qualities working for him, he should have a great life.&uot;


Chuck Corder

contributed to this report.)