Throwing is what Harrodsburg's Harris does best

May 17, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

HARRODSBURG - Because he didn't want to run, Michael Harris started throwing things.

This wasn't the temper tantrum of some toddler, but rather a calculated move by a high school athlete to avoid doing something he saw no value in.

What Harris didn't factor into the equation was just how much value he and his team would derive from his decision.

More than a year after he picked up the disc and shot for the first time, the Harrodsburg senior has made rapid strides in his two events and has put himself in position to contend for a state medal - and maybe even a championship - in each event.


"Hopefully at state I can try and place," Harris said.

Harrodsburg coach Terry Yeast said that goal is well with Harris' reach, even though Harris didn't make the state meet at all last year.

"If he continues to improve ... he's got a realistic shot," Yeast said.

The improvement is coming quickly for Harris, and so are the victories. He no longer operates in anonymity as he did on the football field, where he spent his senior season as a lineman.

"It's my first time getting to stand out," he said. "I like it a lot."

Harris' success hasn't come by accident, even though he certainly wasn't expecting the results he's getting this season. But once he chose his course and saw the potential to improve, he threw himself into them with the kind of work ethic that would be the envy of any coach.

"Michael doesn't miss a day," Harrodsburg coach Terry Yeast said. "He doesn't miss any opportunity to get better at practice."

Yeast, who also coaches football, tries to make sure his football players also come out for track. By the time the 2003 season started, Harris already knew that he would be moving to the offensive and defensive lines for that fall's football season.

At 5-10 and 215 pounds, Harris is undersized for a lineman, but Harrodsburg's roster is undersized, too, so that's where he was needed most. And the former fullback and linebacker quickly realized he wouldn't be doing much running in the trenches.

"When I moved there, I decided I was going to throw instead of run because I wasn't going to use it on the football field," he said.

He began working with Moore

But football wasn't the only thing on his mind. Determined to do well in the discus and shot put, too, he began working with Billy Moore, a former standout thrower who coaches Mercer County's field athletes.

"He worked with me some during the winter," Harris said. "I was watching him do it, and I could see how it worked. He can still throw it."

Yeast admits that he is of little use in coaching throwers - "He gets on me when I throw it short," Harris said. "He tries to scare me into a good throw" - but he said Moore's help has been invaluable.

"Coach Moore just absolutely loves to throw, and he wants to see Michael do better than him," Yeast said. "You don't see a lot of people be that humble."

Harris plans to attend Western Kentucky University this fall - he'd like to teach in or near Harrodsburg someday - and he's considering the possibility of trying out for either the football or the track teams.

This season, Harris has improved his discus throw by about 30 feet to a top throw of about 138 feet, and he has added some 6 1/2 feet to raise his top shot put to about 46 feet.

He finished second in the discus and fourth in the shot at Harrodsburg's Heart of the Bluegrass meet, and he has won invitationals at Danville and Boyle County in the days since.

He's ranked third in both shot put and discus

Harris is currently rated third among Class A boys in both the shot put and discus in the state coaches' association's most recent performance-based rankings. Second place is just a few inches away, although it's a bigger jump to the top-rated throwers in the two events.

"I'm trying to make the good throws at the last of the season," he said.

Harris is earning every inch of his distances the right way. At last week's Boyle meet, his best shot put was nullified when he told the event official that he thought he had scratched by crossing the throwing boundary. Others watching the event were asked and agreed there was a scratch, though the official had made no call before Harris spoke up.

Yeast said it was the second time this season Harris had turned himself in.

"I wouldn't want to take somebody's first-place medal," Harris said. "If somebody took mine, I'd be mad."

But for now, Harris is as happy as can be as he improves seemingly by the day.

"The neatest thing is, he's having a blast," Yeast said.

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