D.J. Harris looks to cap high school career on podium

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent
D.J. Harris of Jackson won the boys 300 meter hurdles during the Division I District Track and Field Meet at Hoover on Friday, May 21, 2021.

JACKSON TWP. – With his high school diploma already in hand, Jackson senior D.J. Harris decided to add another honor to his resume: first-time state track and field meet qualifier.

Harris, a two-sport athlete who has committed to play football for Tiffin University this fall, has been running track senior middle school and a long-time goal has been reaching the state meet. At last week’s Austintown Division I regional meet, he recorded top-three finishes in the 110 and 300-meter hurdles, earning the chance to run in the Columbus suburb of Hilliard at Hilliard Darby High School this weekend against the best hurdlers in the state.

“It was a big accomplishment for me. I’ve been running track since seventh grade and this is my first year qualifying for the state meet,” Harris said. “I put in a lot of work this year and it’s great to see it pay off.”

Harris admitted that if he had to pick between the two, he’s stronger in the 300 hurdles, but is confident in his chances at the state meet in both events.

At the regional meet, the 110 hurdles occurred first and saw Harris easily reach the finals, where he battled a familiar foe in Perry senior Luke Laubacher, who won with a time of 14.46, but saw Harris and Bedford senior Ethan Smith both cross the finish like less than half a second behind him.

Luke Laubacher (left) of Perry won the 110 meter hurdles and D.J. Harris (right) of Perry came in second during the Stark County Track and Field Meet at Perry on Saturday, April 24, 2021.

“The first thing I was thinking was (that I was) finally realizing a hope that I had, that I made it,” Harris noted. “I’ve been training all year to qualify for states in the hurdles and at the end of the race that hit me. It felt great, me and Luke, we’ve been racing all year and for both of us to qualify for states, we’re trying to put a big name out there for the Federal League.”

The league has a strong reputation around Ohio in multiple sports, including boys and girls basketball, baseball, volleyball, boys and girls soccer and track, so having two hurdlers battling for the top spot in not one, but two races drives home that point once again.

In the 300 hurdles, the margin was even smaller as Harris was edged out at the line by .21 seconds. While the win would have been nice, being able to move on and realize his goal of competing at the state meet is an opportunity Harris cherishes.

“Especially with what happened my junior year with the whole season being canceled because of COVID-19, it really woke me up and made me realize with my senior year I only have one chance left,” Harris said.

With the school year over but track still going on, life has been “a little different,” Harris admitted, but because he’s still competing, he hasn’t fully flipped the switch into summer break mode.

Knowing that he will still be playing competitive sports next year and that not all of his fellow state meet competitors will have that same chance, Harris is happy that his athletic career will continue but just as hungry to chase a podium spot – or maybe two of them – in Hilliard.

Once his final race ends this weekend, it will bring the curtain down on an accomplished Jackson career and turn the page to Tiffin, where Harris will play defensive back and intends to major in business, with a focus on finance. But before then, there are races left to run and finish lines left to chase.