Raymon Harper had his first track and field recruiting meeting a little more than a year ago when he was a junior at Vista Ridge High School. Now, he’s preparing for many more.
This first meeting was pretty standard.
A prospective coach brought a trophy and told Harper - whose first love is basketball - he had potential with the program and could help win another trophy.
That meeting was with Vista Ridge track and field coach Erik Stevens, who took notice of Harper’s bounce and burst with the Wolves' basketball team. A couple dunks and drives from the 6-foot Harper was all he needed to recognize his track potential.
“He’s just so explosive,” Stevens recalled thinking. “I watched him on the basketball court. His first step is better than anybody’s on the court, and he can get by people in a heartbeat.”
Stevens brought Storm Allen, an assistant on both the basketball and track and field teams, which turned out to be a smart play considering he already had Harper’s trust.
In the meeting, which Harper said he remembers well, Stevens told him he had potential to be a seven-foot high jumper.
“It just seemed really high for how tall I am,” Harper said. “I’m only like 6-feet. So seven feet, when he said that, it seemed unreal.”
Harper’s decision to join the track team paid off at state as a junior. He placed second in the long jump (22-9.25), fourth in the high jump (6-5.5) and seventh in the triple jump (44.5) to contribute 17 points to the Wolves’ state championship total of 93.5.
At the Lyons Invitational on Saturday - where the Wolves finished fifth - Harper stuck to the high jump and cleared 6-10 for a new personal best that broke the Vista Ridge program record of 6-8, which he set the week prior, to earn Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week.
“Steady progression in the right direction,” Stevens said.
“I think he’s still got more left in him too. He had three good attempts over seven feet on Saturday. He’s just not used to being that high at this point.”
Harper now leads the state regardless of classification in the high jump, according to MileSplit, and owns the best mark in the long and triple jump in Class 4A, according to Stevens. He said they're numbers that have the attention of various Division I and II college programs.
“When he set his (then) PR two weeks ago now, at 6-8, that was right off winning triple jump at 45-3,” Stevens said. “He went from there down to other end, jumped 6-8 and then came back and won the triple jump. His versatility is pretty smooth.”
It’s a long way from where Harper was a year ago. Stevens remembers seeing arms and legs flail all over the place back then.
Some work with Hiliary Huntsinger, whom Stevens called a track and field genius, helped Harper refine his approach as a junior. Harper said it took about half the season before he felt comfortable with the steps.
“Trying to just jump off natural ability when it gets to six feet or higher, you’re going to hit the bar every time if you don’t have that good technique,” Harper said.
While Harper declined to state specific goals the rest of the senior year, a 7-foot jump and a handful of medals from the state meet, where there are sure to be hoards of college coaches, seem obvious.
“I know how high it is,” said Harper of 7-feet. “I know the technique I have to work on. I just have to trust the coaches to help me get there and it will become reality more than a dream.”
Other Peak Performers
Justin Olson, Pine Creek
The senior packed his power as the Eagles traveled to Arizona for a tournament over spring break. Olson went 8 for 11 with four home runs and six RBIs over three games. He also earned a win over St. John Bosco (Calif.) in Pine Creek’s tournament finale. Olson has a team-high five homers and 11 RBIs through seven games.
Macy French and Sammi Holt, Canon City
French, a junior, and Holt, a freshman each recorded hat tricks for the Tigers in an 8-0 win against Pueblo East on Tuesday. It was the first three goals of Holt’s prep career, while French added to her team-leading five goals for the 2-2-1 Tigers.
Boys' track and field
Luke Thurman, Air Academy
The Kadets senior turned in a 4 minute, 35.74 second 1,600-meter race to take first at the Lyons Invitational on Saturday. Thurman also ran a 2:10.57 in the 800, which finished just outside the top 20. Thurman’s win helped Air Academy place eighth.
Girls' track and field
Katie Flaherty, The Classical Academy
Flaherty, a junior won girls’ 3,200-meter race at Lyons Invite on Saturday and helped the Titans tie Valor Christian for third-place. She crossed in 11 minutes, 46.65 seconds, more than two seconds clear of Arvada West senior Claire Pauley.