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Penn State’s Isaiah Harris Wins 800-Meter National Championship

by on June 09, 2018 6:40 PM

Penn State junior Isaiah Harris finally captured what eluded him the past two years: a national title. Harris won the 800 meter race at the 2018 NCAA Championships with a time of 1:44.76.

This title has been years in the making. The Lewiston, Maine, native finished runner-up in the 800 meters in the 2017 outdoor NCAA championships and the 2018 indoor NCAA championships.

During his freshman season in 2016, Harris finished fourth in the outdoor NCAA championship. He is also the six-time Big Ten 800 meter champion, undefeated at the distance in both the indoor and outdoor championships. 

Harris is well-versed in high level competition and was able to use it to his advantage during the championship race. At the end of his freshman season, Harris finished sixth in the 800 meters at the 2016 Olympic Trials.

Following his sophomore season, Harris placed second at the 2017 USA Track and Field Championships, once again in the 800 meters, which earned him a spot on the national team. That summer, he traveled with the United States National team to London where he made it to the semifinal round of competition. 

While conditions were rainy and a bit chilly in Eugene, Ore., that did not seem to affect many runners as they raced to some of the fastest times. The championship two-lap race was a nail-biter for Penn State fans.

There was minimal separation at the halfway point, as most of the field went through the 400-meter mark together around 51 seconds. Harris was biding his time and waited until around the 600-meter mark to challenge for the lead.

He battled with freshman Marco Arop of Mississippi State during the final 100 meters of the race and took the lead only steps before the finish line. Harris took down collegiate record holder Michael Saruni on his way to a new personal best time.

Harris is the first Nittany Lion to take home the 800 meter title since Alan Helffrich won what was then the 880 yard race at the 1922 and 1923 championships. The win also is the Nittany Lions' first men’s title since Brian Milne won the discus throw in 1993.


Janelle Rothacker is a Penn State student and writer for Onward State.
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