THIELLS – Maybe if Alex Harris had been a better soccer player she wouldn’t have been collecting medals after jumping over water hazards in North Carolina, Oregon and Canada last summer.
Maybe had she played more than five minutes — yes, five — as a seventh grader on North Rockland’s modified soccer team she wouldn’t have been the second fastest female high school runner in the state at 1,000 meters this winter.
Maybe she wouldn’t have had her named penned into the national record books as a member of North Rockland’s distance medley relay team, which broke the U.S. record for high school girls this winter.
And maybe the 16-year-old junior wouldn’t be The Journal News Rockland girls indoor track athlete of the year.
But Harris is the first to say of her soccer skills, “I was really bad.”
The same can’t be said for her running. Harris is versatile and fast.
This winter, she ran the 1,200-meter leg on the DMR, was on the Red Raiders’ Rockland County-leading 4×800 relay and ran everything from the 800 to the 3,000.
This spring, her plate is again full with the steeplechase, 800, 1,500, 3,000 and 4×400 and 4×800 relays.
“I’m taking it one race at a time and (pretend after each) I’m done,” she said.
Harris had no idea what she was getting into when she joined modified track in eighth grade.
She doesn’t come from a family of runners. Her dad, Mark, was her recreation soccer coach and her mom, Sharon, has so far avoided catching the running bug. Older sister Madison, who’s now in college, played soccer in high school and eighth-grade brother Everett is a lacrosse player.
But Harris enjoyed running pretty much from the get-go. Her freshman year, she ran all three seasons and garnered the nickname “Bambi” from cross-country coach Barry Baloga because of her long legs.
She was third in the Rockland cross-country championships that year.
But it wasn’t until 10th grade that Harris, who was seventh in cross-country among all public and private school girls in New York last fall, started seeing the “big improvements” that led her to believe she might have a long future in running.
It was her sophomore year that she first qualified for the state cross-country championships. She also won the New Balance Nationals 2K steeplechase last spring in North Carolina. Last summer, she was second in the U.S Track & Field 3K steeplechase in Oregon and third in the Pan-Am Junior Athletic Championships 3K steeple in Canada.
Harris, who wants to compete for a high-level track program in college and possibly studying math or science, loves steeplechase because it’s the closest track event to cross-country.
But she is also a fan of relays, in large part because of her bond with her teammates. She works out with weights and in cross-training weekends, for instance, with relay teammate Katelyn Tuohy.
Coach Brian Diglio points to that bond and to Harris’s makeup as contributing to her success.
“She has always had a tremendous work ethic and drive to succeed,” Diglio said. “I have never coached an athlete who has taken her training so seriously. If you look at her progression from ninth to 10th to 11th grade, you can see it. But the second factor that has allowed this leap to take place is her training partner, Katelyn Tuohy. They have such great synergy and work so well together. Often times, two great runners can lead to negative outcomes for one of the runners but having Katelyn around has only made Alex greater.”
“We have such a fun, family dynamic,” Harris said of her relay teams.
Part of the bond, she explained, is simply shared pain.
Most times that’s physical. But this winter, less than a day after Harris helped set the national DMR record, she and her teammates were downcast after Mamaroneck edged them for the national title in the 4×800 relay.
But that was in the championship division and two years earlier, Harris ran in the 4×800 at Nationals in the lower, emerging elite division, where North Rockland finished 15th.
The change isn’t lost on Harris.
“Looking back, we were so happy,” she said of their earlier, much lower finish. “We’ve come a long way and I think we still have more to go.”
The rest of the first team
55 – Nicole Dodrill, Sr., North Rockland
55 hurdles – Emmanuela Lauredent, Sr., North Rockland
300 –Camille Cameron, Sr., North Rockland
600 – Kamryn McIntosh, Jr., Suffern
1,500 – Katelyn Tuohy, eighth grade, North Rockland
1,500 walk – Maria Garcia, Sr., North Rockland
4×200 relay –North Rockland (Nicole Dodrill, Sr.; Camille Cameron, Sr.; Akemi Dwyer, Sr.; Eammanuela Lauredent, Sr.; Sofia Housman, So.; Ivana Lopez, So.)
4×400 relay – Kyra Greenbaum, Jr.; Nicole Becker, Sr.; Nallah Sutherland, Jr.; Kamryn McIntosh, Jr.; Rachel Ludwikowski, Jr.; Monal Daterao, eighth grade)
4×800 relay – North Rockland (Sydney March, Sr.; Alex Harris, Jr.; Claire Tantillo, Sr.; Katelyn Tuohy, eighth grade; Haleigh Morales, eighth grade)
High jump – Paige Clarke, Sr., Clarkstown South
Long jump – Akemi Dwyer, Sr., North Rockland
Triple jump – Anika Dwyer, Sr., North Rockland
Pole vault –Kerry Qualter, Jr., Clarkstown South
Shot put – Briana Montgomery, Jr., Suffern
Weight throw – Helen Joyner, Sr., Tappan Zee
Coach of the year – Brian Diglio, North Rockland
55 –Madjeanna Brutus, Jr. Spring Valley
300 – Louise Jones, So., Nyack
600 –Skylar Moreno, So., Clarkstown South
1,000 – Mary Borkoski, Fr., Pearl River
1,500 walk – Kiana Rojas, Sr., North Rockland
4×200 relay – Suffern (Catherine Jones, So.; Nicole Becker, Sr.; Kyra Greenbaum, Jr.; Nallah Sutherland, Jr..; Alexa Rivera, So.)
4×400 relay – North Rockland (Camille Cameron, Sr.; Ivana Lopez, So.; Sydney March, Sr.; Arianna Marino, Sr.)
4×800 relay – Suffern (Rachel Ludwikowski, Jr.; Mary Hennelly, eighth grade; Jenna Borenkoff, Sr., Jackie Becker, Jr.)
High jump – Alexa Kudlinski, Fr., Suffern
Triple jump – Liana Najaroen, Sr., Clarkstown North
Pole vault –Allison Moroney, Sr., Pearl River
Shot put – Sienna Perry, Sr., Tappan Zee
Weight throw – Kaylah Blackwell, So., North Rockland
55 – Shondell Small, eighth grade, North Rockland; 1,500 walk –Cara Dolan, Sr., Clarkstown North; Liz Lee, So., North Rockland; Katie Byrnes, Jr., Clarkstown South; 4×200 relay –Spring Valley, Clarkstown South; 4×400 relay –Clarkstown South, Pearl River; 4×800 relay –Pearl River, Tappan Zee; High jump – Kayleigh Meidriech, So., Pearl River; Jeriyla Kamau-Weng, So. Nyack; Triple jump – Nina Najaroen, Sr., Clarkstown North; Pole vault –Brianna Pertuz, Jr. Tappan Zee; Shot put – Cynthia Faustin, Jr., Nyack; Weight throw – Deja Branch, Sr., North Rockland; Kayla Loderick, So., North Rockland