Sprinters’ lives revolve around the elusive chase for perfection. No matter the place or time, something can always be better, quicker, more succinct. And like most good races, it begins, and sometime ends, with a quality start.
A good start can propel a runner toward an upset. A bad start can send one into a tailspin. But an experienced runner can rise above a bad one and still cross the line a winner.
That’s exactly what happened to Elmont’s Brianna Harris in the 300 meters at the Nassau Coaches Invitational at Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island last Saturday. Harris, Newsday’s Athlete of the Week, won both the 55 (7.54 seconds) and 300 (41.59) at the early season meet.
Harris said the two victories were encouraging, but she still needed to overcome a less-than-ideal start en route to her 300 triumph. “My start wasn’t what I planned it to be,” she said. “Throughout the race, I was kind of getting nervous because I wasn’t making up the stagger as quickly as I should have. But, toward the last 150-200 meters, I ended up making it up and taking the lead.”
The move showed patience and experience. Harris didn’t panic when she saw things weren’t going well at the gun. She knew how to fix it and, perhaps more importantly, knew what not to do. “I don’t want to overrun and end up losing or become tired,” she said. “I remained calm and trusted in myself to make up the stagger and take the win.”
“She knows her sport,” Elmont coach Mike Graham said.
After spending her fall on the cross country team, Harris has crossed over to the other side of the running universe. While some lament the drop in distance from 5,000 meters (the standard cross country distance) to 1,500 meters (roughly a mile and what many cross country runners focus on in the winter), the junior has taken the change even further.
But Harris doesn’t mind the switch from extreme endurance to extreme speed. After all, she admitted that she runs cross country to get in shape for track, at least in part.
“With cross country, I use it for fitness and conditioning,” she said. “Once I hit the last 150 meters, that’s when I do my speed work. I get a combination of both . . . But every year, you want to PR.”
Harris’ track goals are a tad more lofty than just setting a new personal best. Last season, she qualified for the indoor state championships in the 300 and the outdoor state championships in the 100. With that experience under her belt, she hopes to make a return trip in the 300 and, possibly, qualify in the 55 as well.
“It’s a bit of a challenge,” she said of the 55. “But for the work from the 100 meters, I was able to adapt to the 55 and understand that it takes more speed. I have to be like lightning when I get out.”
A good start. That’s what it always goes back to.