Olympics: Lewiston’s Isaiah Harris comes up short in gutsy performance

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EUGENE, Ore. — Isaiah Harris took second place in the 800 meters at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials with 200 meters to go. He was behind Boris Berian, the world indoor champion.

He used everything he had to drive to the finish line, but even with his Olympic dream on the line, his legs were unable to carry him to the top-three finish necessary to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The Lewiston native, who just finished his freshman year at Penn State, finished in sixth place, running 1 minute, 46.47 seconds.

“At 400 meters, I saw we went out pretty fast, but with 200 to go I was running behind Boris, and I felt like it was right in my reach,” Harris said. “I was thinking about Rio — I was thinking about being an Olympian and how it is everyone’s dream. But for it to be that close, it almost hurts more now that I did not earn that spot.”

Clayton Murphy, who just finished his collegiate career at the University of Akron, won the race in 1:44.76. Behind him were Berian and Charles Jock, who ran 1:44.92 and 1:45.48, respectively, for the other two spots on the Olympic team.

Two days before, Harris ran just fast enough in the 800-meter semifinal to advance to the final round with the fourth-fastest time, 1:45.95.

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Harris entered the trials already having the Olympic standard of 1:46, meaning that all he had to do is finish in the top three to make the Olympic team. He got the standard in his last collegiate race of the season, the final day of the NCAA outdoor championships, where he just missed a medal and placed fourth with a time of 1:45.76.

During the Olympic trials final, however, Harris felt off.

“I felt really good at 400 meters to go, and my legs felt great,” he said. “I just couldn’t get into my stride and finish as hard as I wanted to.”

Harris ran this race all-out like he has the entire season, and it has left him exhausted.

“It has been a long year, which isn’t necessarily an excuse,” Harris said. “I have been training for over a year straight now since high school, but three rounds is tough in four days, so I know it takes a toll out of your legs.”

Harris was a high school standout when he competed for Lewiston High School. His senior year, he won individual Class A state titles in the 200, 800 and 1,600. He also was the anchor for the winning 4×400 relay team.

Within the span of one year, Harris has improved his 800 personal best from 1:49.63 to 1:45.76.

“It has been crazy. I mean, the training has done it,” he said. “Having people push me to be better, too, like having guys like (Penn State teammate) Brandon Kidder encouraging me, it’s just all of that combined can really bring you up.

“I am not at all unhappy with how I raced today. I did not picture I would make it to the finals,” Harris said. “I just know that it is going to help me four years from now.”

Going to Rio

Lisbon’s Nick Rogers is on his way to the Paralympics in Rio.

He was named to the U.S. Paralympic team Sunday after competing in the U.S.Paralympic time trials in Charlotte, N.C.

Rogers will compete as a member of the U.S. relay teams after stellar performances in the 100-, 200-, and 400-meter races. He will also serve as an alternate in each of these events.

He took finished fourth in the 100- and 400-meter events and took fifth in the 200.

“I think the whole reality of the situation is still settling in for me,” Rogers said. “When they announced my name, I almost started crying.

“It’s euphoric really. I have been working so hard and to have all that pay off, and hear them announce my name to go to Rio is was such an honor.

“It is so humbling to go out and represent the United States in Rio. It is unbelievable.”

His best time out of the three events was 49:57 in the 400.

What I did is I actually did is I got an alternate position,” Rogers said. “I am the relay specialist and I am also an alternate. So I will be doing all he relays and also, if somebody is injured, I will be filling in their sport in the one, two and 400 (hundred) because I showed I was I was very capable in all of them.

Rogers knows all about the dangers of mosquitoes and the high crime rate in Rio, but he is going to play it smart and focus on the competition.

“Definitely going to keep an eye out for mosquitoes,” Rogers said. “I am not going to be leaving the Olympic village, that is for sure. I don’t even have any interest to go out and explore.”

True, Riley keep rolling along

Two other competitors from Maine, Ben True and Riley Masters, qualified for the final in the men’s 5,000. The top six in each heat qualified for the final, and True, of Cumberland, placed third in his heat, automatically qualifying with a time of 13:48.11. Masters, of Veazie, placed seventh in the same heat, but made the final by running the second fastest time among non-automatic qualifiers, 13:49.75.

The final for the men’s 5,000 will be held July 9.

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