Monday, May 20, 2019
The Men's & Women's Track and Field team ended its first season after a 22-year absence on the Catonsville campus just as Head Coach Mark Pryor had hoped.......on the final day of the NJCAA Outdoor T&F Championships.
From the first day of practice, Coach Pryor stated his goal for his team to qualify and compete at the highest level of Junior College Track & Field. That goal was accomplished by talented freshman Da'Lon Harris who qualified for the championships, then qualified as one of the top 8 finalist from the preliminary rounds (out of 31 total entries). And on Saturday, Harris competed in the program's first college championships in over 20 years proudly wearing the Cardinal colors and representing CCBC Catonsville to the best of his ability.
Coach Pryor has always preached excellence, hard work and tenacity. From his 10+ years of winning County, Regional & State titles in Baltimore County T&F to his years as a Division I college coach. Those are the 3 main components of a T&F athlete. If one can master those three, then success will be the outcome. Harris trained hard, was tenacious in his commitment and displayed excellence by winning races against Division I, II, III and Junior College athletes throughout the season. So it was not a surprise when Harris made the finals of the 400m event in Hobbs New Mexico.
The long travel would not be an issue or would the heat of the South Llands. Harris's focus and dedication had been steadfast since the first day of training in August. While only 18 years old, Harris ran his races like a seasoned veteran though the event was new to him.
At the NJCAA Championships, Harris lined up against T&F athletes from junior college programs with long histories of success in T&F. This year was no difference with over 40 schools competing such as Hinds CC, Iowa Central, South Plains, Meridian, Barton County, Cloud County and Allen County to name a few. They all descended upon the campus of Hobbs Junior College for what would be a record setting championships which rewrote the collegiate T&F record books.
The NJCAA performance leader in both the men's 400m and 200m events was Indian Hills freshman Kenny Bednarek. He entered the championships as the #1 ranked performer with times of :45.62 in the 400m and :20.12 in the 200m. Those times alone would be good enough to qualify and compete at the NCAA Division I T&F Championships. Bednarek was the class of the field and he didn't disappoint.
In the 400m finals, Bednarek's winning time was :44.73. That breaks the NJCAA Outdoor record as well as ranks #6 in the world. Running in lane 2, CCBC Catonsville's Da'Lon Harris did all he could to run against the heavy favorite as well as the other upperclassmen in the race. Unfortunately, Harris did not get the start he needed as he stumbled out of the blocks. But as a true testament of his character, Harris gave 100% effort and ended up finishing in 8th place. The video of the race, shows how Harris never gave up and fought hard all the way to the finish line. He was disappointed in his result, but Coach Pryor quickly informed Harris that he was most proud of this young man and all he accomplished. One race does not define a season or the commitment displayed all year by Harris.
Bednarek returned to the track and again re-wrote the collegiate record books by winning the 200m finals in another world-ranking time of :19.82. The previous NJCAA record for 200m was :20.19. Bednarek is the first and youngest american to run both a sub 20 second 200M and a sub 45 second 400M in the same day.
Da'Lon Harris left these championships with a feeling of knowing that he has work to do to achieve the goals he set for himself. A lesson that could only be taught and learned from experience. And that's exactly what Coach Pryor had hoped for. Harris left those championships with a renewed commitment to return next year and earn All-American status by placing Top 3. Harris now knows how it looks and what it feels like to compete against one of the world's best T&F athletes. If he wants to be more competitive, he must work harder.
Link to the final results of the 2019 NJCAA Outdoor T&F Championships:
Here is a link to a video of the Finals of the Men's 400m dash at the 2019 NJCAA Championships. Da'Lon Harris is in Lane 2.