DES MOINES — “Hey, Deonne, you going to win the race?”
“That’s the plan.”
Deonne Harris’s plan was spot on Saturday — the top spot. The Newton High senior won the final 110-meter high hurdle race of his high school track career.
Harris flew over the 10 hurdles on a perfect afternoon at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. His plan was to win and win he did. Harris captured the Iowa Class 4A state championship in the 110-meter high hurdles in 14.63 seconds.
“Everyone always ask me if I’m going to win and I always tell that’s the plan,” Harris said following Saturday’s race. “It’s amazing. It’s an amazing feeling to be a state champion. I’ve worked so hard for this.”
Harris was swarmed by television cameras and reporters following his win. He never stopped smiling.
Harris was the only 2014 state finalist returning in the Class 4A state final of the 110-meter high hurdles. He has been the top-ranked high hurdler in 4A almost all season. He didn’t have the top time coming out of district meets last week.
Harris didn’t even have the top time going into the finals. He won his preliminary heat Friday in 14.83 seconds.
“It wasn’t my best race, but I was focused on winning it to get the finals. I was going to do anything I needed to to win it,” Harris said Friday afternoon.
Harris watched Nick Wessels, a junior from Waukee, post a preliminary heat winning time of 14.62.
“I had a great race today. I was so worked up about today. Yesterday after he (Wessels) ran a 14.62 to my 14.83 in preliminaries, I went ‘oh, no,’” Harris said. “Once I got down there today, I told myself it was the last race of the year, and it’s what I’ve been working for, and I’m not going to get nervous.”
Harris said he began running hurdles in seventh grade and just got better at them, winning the middle school state hurdle championship. As freshman, Harris was turning in strong times.
“I was the fastest freshman in Iowa then I got hurt. I wasn’t anywhere near the seniors in hurdles that year, but I was leading my class,” Harris said. “As a sophomore, I got here at state and had my eyes opened. That’s when I set the goal of becoming a state champion.”
Harris began working hard as a junior. He won his first district championship in the 110 hurdles, reaching the state meet again. He made the finals and was the only junior in the field, finishing sixth.
Then came November 2014.
“The first week of November I began 15-minute runs to get my lungs built back up, going from football condition to track condition. Then I worked the stairs — running stairs every day. I did sets for a minute straight, up and down,” Harris said. “I didn’t begin working with hurdles until January.”
Harris said they worked on form and technique, setting goals, meeting goals and setting new goals.
“This week had been the hardest. (Coach Mike) Castings just kept making me do stuff. I listened to him and did what he asked. I love him to death,” Harris said.
When asked what makes him a good high school hurdler and now a 4A state champion, Harris said,
“My attitude and my passion for the sport. I love to run the hurdles. My attitude is about confidence in myself. I’ve worked hard and I believe I’m going to beat anyone I go up against, but I respect all of the guys I race. I’m going to run as hard as I can to win the race.
“This is great,” Harris said, still smiling.
Newton High’s junior Grace Coen had a disappointing run in the 4A 800 earlier Saturday. Coen came back on the track for the 1,500 and claimed the eighth-place medal in 4 minutes, 46.24 seconds. She was 11th in the 800 at 2:19.03.
“Nothing at state has gone as planned this year,” Coen said. “It’s hard to come back from an injury and do well. I’m happy to end it with getting eighth. That’s really great.”
Coen was running in the chase pack the first two laps and had moved to 10th with two laps to go.
“I just tried to kick it in. I just had it in my head ‘pump your arms Grace and go,’” Coen said of the final sprint to the finish line in the 1,500.
“In the 800, it was a nicely planned race, I just didn’t have enough to execute the plan.”
Coen competed in the 3,000 meters Thursday and said she just had an off day in that race. She also anchored the Cardinals’ 4x400 relay in Friday’s preliminaries. She combined with junior Sydney Jenkins, freshman Alexis Stout and senior Hailey Coy for a time of 4:11.96, which was 24th.
“I think we were all tired from the day. I’m so proud of my team for running their hardest. It’s tough at state and we did our best in the race,” Coen said.
Also on Friday, Jenkins and Coy opened the day with juniors Leela Spencer and Alex Hutchinson running the 4A distance medley race. The Newton foursome finished 20th in 4:24.95.
On Friday, Newton High senior Sarah Kalkhoff picked up her second 2015 state meet medal. She placed sixth in the 4A shot put with a throw of 39 feet, 5 inches.
Harris ran in the 4A 400 hurdle finals Friday, finishing 23rd in 1:00.25.
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at 641-792-3121 ext. 6535 or email@example.com