Sports

Local youth athletes place at AAU Junior Olympics

Seth Harris isn’t philosophical about track.

“I just go out there, and I run fast. If they beat me, then, oh well,” he said.

Harris, 13, is going into eighth grade at James Hart School. He’s a hurdler for the Panthers and with Legacy Runners Elite track club based in Homewood.

Harris was with the running club at Drake University in Iowa for the AAU Junior Olympics July 29-30. He finished second in the 100-meter and seventh in the 200-meter hurdles races while competing with the best in the country.

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Seth Harris. (Provided photo)

Before heading to the Hawkeye state, his only knowledge of the athletes he’d line up next to was the times on the heat sheet. In the 200-meter hurdles, a lot of those times were better than Harris’s. He was more confident in the shorter race.

“I didn’t expect to place so high. I was expecting there to be tougher competition,” Harris said.

He turned in personal records in both races, finishing in 13.9 seconds in the 100-hurdles and 26 seconds in the 200.

“I had a good race at a good time,” he said. “When I had to run the best, I ran the best and I wasn’t worried about ‘I’m going to run slow. All these people are faster than me.’ I just went out there and I ran as fast as I could.”

That stoicism was in part because he’d been here before. Harris qualified for the AAU Junior Olympics as a 9-year-old. That first time in a national event didn’t go as well. He was injured and didn’t end up on any podiums.

It helped prepare him for the pomp and atmosphere this time around, though.

“Many of my teammates, they had never been there before,” he said. When they had to perform Harris said “they had never really been at a big meet like that, the nerves got to them. They didn’t win the races that they could’ve easily won. It helped me a lot (to have been there before).”

The performance in Iowa only boosts Harris’s confidence going into his final middle school season. He placed first in the 110-meter hurdles at state for Hart in May.

Harris also bumps up a level in the club ranks. It’s all part of his journey to bigger things.

“Next year is 15 and 16-year-olds in one age group so it’s going to be more kids and tougher competition,” he said. “Hopefully, I can get a scholarship and go to college.”

H-F grad Alozie places in 400
In her final major competition before heading east to run for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Homewood-Flossmoor High School graduate Angela Alozie finished seventh in the 17- and 18-year-old 400-meter dash.

“I feel like maybe I could’ve ran a little better in the prelim, a little faster so I could have a better seed time going into the finals, but overall I’m still happy with my experience,” she said. “I feel like I did as much as I could.” 

Her qualifying time was 55.96, which was close to a personal record for her. Her goal coming into the summer was to run under 56 seconds, which she did at the AAU regional qualifier at Benedictine University. 

“Once I (hit my goal), I was just having fun,” she said. “It feels great (to be an All American). I feel like all the work I put in to get to this point has paid off. I just really feel like I deserve it.” 

Alozie finished 8th in the 400 at the Class 3A state championship in May. She ran with the 8th-place 400-meter and 9th-place 1,600-meter relay teams as a junior. In 10th grade, she was 4th in the 400 and ran a leg on the 2nd-place 400-meter and 9th-place 1,600 meter relay teams. 

In 2021, she was 13th in the 400 at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics.

“I felt like it was reassuring the second time because I felt like I had already been through a national (meet),” she said. 

Alozie lined up for the final with some of the best sprinters in the country. She said she didn’t feel intimidated, though.

“When I was on the line, I wasn’t trying to focus on them. I was trying to run the race for myself,” she said. 

That’s just Alozie’s steady mindset. She also ran the 200-meter dash in Iowa and didn’t make the podium, but said she didn’t have any regrets. 

“I wasn’t disappointed that I only qualified for one,” she said. “There are a lot of people who go to nationals and don’t qualify for finals at all. I still felt like it was a nice opportunity.” 

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