The funny thing about Keyanna Harris and her ever-evolving track and field career is that she never intended to do it in the first place. When she was eight, sahe said participating in track and field was more a matter of chance than desire.
”My sister started track before me-- when I went to one of her practices once, the coach begged me to be on the team,” said Harris, who recently signed a letter of intent with the Division I Georgia Southern University track and field team.“I tried it and liked it, so ever since then I just continued to do it through high school,” she said.
Throughout her high school career, Harris, a West Orange resident, participated in three events—long jump, high jump and 400 meter hurdles—all of which she set personal bests. But out of all three, Harris’ talents in high jump gained her the most success, placing first in the Union County Championships, the Union County Conference Championships and the Union County Relays.
It was only a matter of time before schools, including Georgia Southern, started reaching out to her to come join them. “When I heard from Georgia Southern, I was a little apprehensive at first because it’s so far and I don’t know anyone,” she said. “They flew me down for a visit and I really liked the coaches and the team. I’m still a little nervous about the distance but I know once I get there that all the good of the school would outweigh the bad, which is the distance.”
Growing up, Harris tried other sports including basketball, soccer and lacrosse, but it was the individuality of track and field that attracted her. Before she entered high school, Harris says she hit a plateau when it came to improving her height in high jump. Frustrated, she almost decided to quit track and field altogether and concentrated solely on her academics.
After some helpful advice from her mother, Harris made the decision to continue track in high school.“I had a lot of school work, my eighth grade graduation was coming and it was about to be summer. My mom told me you need to make this decision before you get into high school, whether it’s going to be just academics or academics and track,” she said. “And after I thought about it, I couldn’t not do track anymore. Even though it was difficult mentally for me because I wasn’t improving, I decided I would work harder in high school so I could get better.”
Although she said she’s not sure whether the Olympics would be a possibility, she has a number of goals for the coming years. For one, Harris would like to improve her high school record to either a height of 5’8 or 5’10. She is also thinking of majoring in communications or broadcast journalism, ultimately reporting on basketball games as her dream job of sorts.
But like all young students, the procrastination bug infects everyone. With Harris, it’s something she says needs to be solved quickly.
“I’ve gotten a lot better. Kent Place has really helped solve my procrastination problem but I’d like to get rid of that completely,” she said. “I’m sure that my tight schedule with track and school will force me to eliminate my problem.”
After receiving the scholarship, Harris said her parents couldn’t have been more proud of her, with her mother fighting back tears of joy at the news.
“It’s weird for me to think that I started track when I was eight and it was kind of like, ‘Oh yeah I’ll do this, whatever.’ I didn’t really want to do it in the beginning, but then 10 years later I’m getting a scholarship and it’s unbelievable.”