Sometimes, mom just knows best.
Kinsey Harmon had a very successful eighth-grade track season, but didn’t come away from her introduction to running real enamored with the sport. It wasn’t the worst thing, but for Harmon it didn’t seem like her thing.
“Basketball was my thing so I was like ‘I’m not going to go out there and run a mile. That’s crazy,'” Harmon said. “I saw (her brother Gavin) hurting so much running a 5K and it didn’t look very fun, so I was thinking it’s not really my thing.
“But mom, she was like, ‘No, I think you should try it.'”
Harmon did. And what followed is one of the more decorated distance-running careers at the school.
“It’s grown on me, for sure. I didn’t always love to do it,” said Harmon, who also credits Berlin coach Matt Willett for opening her eyes to the sport. “I started in eighth grade and I didn’t like it. But by the end of freshman year, at the end of cross country for sure, I was like I kind of like this. Sophomore year, there was no question.”
Harmon will likely become a four-time state qualifier in both cross country and track and has shined at the state meet in both sports.
The senior has three top 25 finishes at the state cross country meet, including a 15th place as a freshman. At the state track meet, she finished fourth in the 3,200 meters as a freshman and has had a pair of seventh-place finishes — one shy of earning another medal — in the 1,600 meters as a sophomore and junior.
“Definitely frustrating and it’s definitely that feeling of being so close but yet so far away,” Harmon said. “I’m just so thankful to have another chance at it and hopefully get it in my last year. Get on the podium again.”
What has helped Harmon the most in excelling in the sometimes physically grueling sport of distance running has actually been her mental approach to the sport.
A 4.0-plus student at Berlin, Harmon seems more appreciative of the friends she’s made, the sights she’s seen on a run through the country and the lessons being in a sport have taught her, than the medals and ribbons she’s accumulated over her career.
“I just learn more every year and that makes me more complete runner and more of a complete person. It just helps in every aspect of my life, I think,” Harmon said. “Meeting some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life and some of my best friends and just learning so much about myself.”
But there is no questioning her competitive nature — or her success — when she laces up the running shoes.
“One thing about Kinsey that is so powerful is her mind. She is so tough. She doesn’t shy away from competition and she doesn’t get rattled at all,” Willett said. “She keeps everything in perspective, that’s one of the great things about her.”
That was even apparent as a freshman, when she followed her mom’s advice to take up cross country.
Harmon said she trained hard in the summer before hitting high school and attended some running camps — “I was like ‘Everyone’s going to beat me here.’ But I ended up doing just fine,” she said — to prepare for cross country.
She didn’t necessarily expect to race to immediate success, however.
“I did not think I was going to be good. I thought I would end up lost in the woods somewhere,” Harmon said. “The coaches were really straightforward with me and they were like if you keep running times like this, you could make it to the state meet.
“So, I knew right away that if I kept doing what I was doing I knew I could do it, but it was still kind of a ‘Wow’ moment when I made it (to state).”
Sometimes success in a freshman season can be difficult to duplicate — complacency can become a factor as well as maybe a bit of overconfidence.
But any pressure to repeat her success Harmon felt, she just took in stride.
“Coming in as a sophomore I was a lot smarter runner. I knew what I was doing. I had a lot more confidence coming in,” Harmon said. “I definitely wanted to make it back to state. I knew if I kept working hard and doing what I was doing, it should not be unattainable. It wasn’t like tremendous pressure, but it’s always in the back of your head.”
Harmon got an added boost for her junior season, when younger sister, Malerie, was a freshman on the squad.
Running with her sister has been “a lot of fun,” Harmon said, and it has also helped raise the overall talent level of the Berlin squad. Last season, without a senior among the top five runners, the Indians qualified for the state meet as a team.
That’s in the line of sight again for Harmon — with an improvement on the squad’s 13th-place finish — as is a chance to walk away with a little hardware of her own.
“That would be really great. As far as myself, that’s my dream,” Harmon said of earning an individual state medal. “Mentally, it’s so tough. There are so many fast girls. It’s not just one or two or you’re out there alone. You’re surrounded by fast girls competing at the highest level.
“We’ll see what happens. I would love to get on the podium before I say good-bye to Berlin High.”