One-on-one with Drew Harris

Tim Downer/Photographer

With a batch of new runners joining the Northern Kentucky University Men’s cross-country team, Captain Drew Harris looks to be the leader. Harris, a junior, is an All-American candidate and won the first men’s track Great Lakes Valley Conference title in the 5000 meter run in track this past spring, almost being beat out for it by former NKU basketball player DeAaron Williams in the High Jump. I was able to speak with Harris after he set the record for the Dayton Flyer 5K Sept. 5.

How do you feel about your record-setting win in the 5k today?

DH: I was happy with how I ran today but I still have a long way to go. It’s a definitely a good way to begin the season. But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. I really wanted to get the 5K record in this race because we don’t get a lot of opportunities to run the distance in cross country, and I just missed getting it in our only 5K last year.

Does this give you momentum on the upcoming competition?

‘ DH: It’s good to get out and get a fast time early, and it will hopefully give me a starting point to gauge what I can do later on this season.

As a junior, have you taken on any kind of leadership for the team?

DH: I was voted captain this spring, but the title really doesn’t mean that much.
Last year I took on a bigger role, and I’m really just trying to continue to lead by example and show some of the younger guys that hard work will pay off.

How do you prepare for a race?

DH: In the long term, I make sure I put myself in a position to be ready to run with anyone through training in the off season.’ In the short term, I try and make sure I know the competition, and from there I usually map out a strategy for each race.

Since losing both leading seniors, has the team had to go through any major changes?

Not really. We obviously knew that we would be a young team this season so we’ve been able to prepare ourselves for the ups and downs that come along with a young team.

Is the team as a whole worried about the upcoming year?

DH: Worried is not really the right word. We understand that there is going to be a learning process for freshmen, running is no different from soccer, basketball, etc. There is always a period of transition and some people take longer to adapt to collegiate running than others. My only worry is that we adapt in time for GLVC and NCAA competition.

How is the team chemistry?

DH: It’s hard when you have a lot of new guys to really know everyone and gel. It’s just something that takes time to build up. We’ve got a really diverse group of guys and it’s been really interesting thus far.

What kind of obstacles do you, in particular, face this season?

DH: My only obstacle is staying focused on the goal of qualifying for nationals in November.
All these invitationals are nice, but really when we get down to business the only meet that really matters is the Midwest Regional in November. I will need to either finish in the top 5 overall, or be one of the top two finishers who is not on a qualifying team.

How do you feel about being possibly considered for All-American?

DH: It’s nice to be in the discussion. Cross-country is so much different than the other sports because it’s not just a committee making a selection. There are so many things that have to fall your way to make it to nationals, and then once you’re there you have to finish in the top 40. So really you have to have your best race once, then come back two weeks later and do it again. Last year I know I was good enough to be in the top 40, but I didn’t qualify out of our region.

What would you suggest to the incoming freshmen who are working to be in your spot somewhere down the road?

DH: Being a successful runner comes down to three things: hard work, luck and patience. When I was a freshman I was just trying to improve and help the team and it took my entire freshman year (cross-country, indoor and outdoor track) and the next summer to get to the level that I’m at right now. You also have to stay injury free, which I’ve been lucky enough to be.

What was your inspiration for coming this far in cross-country?

DH: I set a lot of goals for myself, and those goals keep me motivated throughout the summer when I’m running by myself. I always have those goals in my head to give me that extra boost. My freshman year I just wanted to be in the top seven, and last year I came in under the radar and had a great season. My goal this year is to stay on top.

If there was one thing you could say to the future cross-country runners of NKU what would it be?

DH:’ You really have to learn to take the sport seriously, while still trying to keep it in perspective.
I always try and remind myself that its just a sport and while doing well is important, you need to just try and have fun and enjoy what you’re doing.