Harris commands the anchor at Meyo Invitaitonal


Competitors race towards the finish line in the Men's 60 Meter Dash during the Iowa Dual indoor track and field meet on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016. Along with Iowa, teams from Western Illinois and Iowa Central Community College were also in attendance. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Adam Hensley, [email protected]

Mar’yea Harris steps on the track, plants his feet, and turns his head, awaiting the baton from his Hawkeye teammate.

This is the last event of the Meyo Invitational, the 1,600-meter relay. When he sees his teammate running his way, only one thought goes through his mind:

“Get it to me; I’m ready to go,” Harris said.

Harris ran his 400-meter split of the relay in 45.6 seconds, boosting Iowa to third place.

“[It] was one of the best splits we’ve ever had, especially for indoor relays,” Iowa Director of Track & Field Joey Woody said. “He’s going to end up potentially being one of the best 400 athletes we’ve had at Iowa.”

In his first season as a member of Iowa’s track team, Harris is off to a sizzling start. He’s anchored all five 1,600-meter relays this year, with three of them taking home first. His group has yet to finish lower than third in a meet this year, a big part of that thanks to the anchor.

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While the pressure of being the final runner creeps into the minds of some, Harris keeps himself focused and relaxed heading into his races.

“I listen to a couple songs, and I talk to my teammates to keep my mind off the race to get some good laughs in,” the Auburn, Washington, native said. “I don’t like to stress about my races.”

His calm mindset has benefited the relay group. At the Razorback Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Iowa’s 4×400 relay of Mitch Wolff, DeJuan Frye, Carter Lilly, and Harris posted the second-best time in the Big Ten this season (3:10.82).

The following weekend at the Meyo in South Bend, Indiana, Iowa’s relay beat that time. Wolff, Brendan Thompson, Frye, and Harris ran a 3:10.04.

“We just build momentum off Mar’yea,” Frye said. “He goes hard, we try to go as hard as him. We know he’s going to do what he does every week. We trust him.”

In each meet, the Hawkeyes have shaved time off their previous 1,600-meter relay. Woody believes that if this trend continues, his group will be in contention for the Big Ten title.

“I want [the title] really badly,” Harris said. ”We go out here every day and work really hard. Our goal is to win Big Ten, that’s the motto. [We need to] drop a few seconds, fix the handoffs, and we’ll get down there.”

His speed was the main factor that led Woody to use him as Iowa’s anchor. Harris as a prep at Woodrow Wilson Classical High School had one of the fastest 4×400-meter groups in the nation his senior year.

Since then, Harris’ hunger for speed has continued to skyrocket.

“He’s an ultra-competitor,” Woody said. “He’s focused on the process, but he loves the process. I’ve always said if you want to be a great athlete, you’ve got to love the process. He loves that day-to-day work.”

While Harris has been a major part in cementing Iowa’s relay as one of the best in the conference, he has also shown his ability in the 400 meters.

Early in the indoor season at the Iowa Duals, Harris won the event. Then at the Razorback Invitational, he placed eighth with a time of 47.10. That time was the third best in Hawkeye history.

However, when it comes down to which event he likes more, Harris has a clear favorite.

“The 4-by-4 is my favorite race,” he said. “I’ve been pretty good at it since my junior year of high school. I love the atmosphere, the crowd, and how involved the team is with it.”

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