Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

May 29, 2021

By Fred Liggett

The month of May has been a very successful one for Maddie Harris and it’s very likely more is on the way before the calendar turns to June. Harris, a 2019 Lee’s Summit West graduate, as a Nebraska freshman won the Big 10 Conference outdoor championships javelin title on the final day of the meet held at Demirjian Park in Champaign, Illinois.

Harris set a new personal best of 183-10 to win the event. The new personal record moved to her number two in school history. In addition to that, Harris’s mark at the Big 10 meet surpassed the U.S. Olympic Trials qualifying standard.

A former coach of Harris at LS West, Brian Cooper, was at home on his computer looking at live results is how he found out one of his former players had a record-setting day at the college level. Serving as the LS West Girls throw coach for the past five years Cooper says of Harris “been a great student of the sport.” Cooper feels her personal record is “most impressive for a freshman,” adding “that’s huge.”

Cooper is “not surprised” by Harris’ success this season as he feels Harris “has a culture of excellence” and adds “just a tremendous jump up by Maddie.” Cooper says in visits with the Nebraska track and field coach Scott Cappos while Harris was being recruited heard Harris being called “an upper-level thrower.” Cappos is currently an assistant coach – throws at the Big 10 member school.

Up next for Harris is the NCAA Western preliminary meet being held at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Currently Harris is ranked number three in the Western Region. The top 24 athletes compete in the Western and Eastern Regional then the top 12 in each region move on to nationals. The Western Regional for the women began on Thursday, May 27 with finals on Saturday, May 29. The NCAA Championships will be held in Eugene, Oregon June 9 – 12 at the University of Oregon.

Coach Cooper says he “hears from Harris quite a bit, I was able to get close to her mom and dad while Maddie was at LS West.” Cooper says hearing from Harris “so often is impressive” as he was a college athlete himself and found it tough to keep up in touch with others while in season.

Harris is happy to be competing at the Western Region event in Texas saying “pretty excited to up against those outside of the Big 10” as she competed against the same people during the conference season. Harris has felt good about her chances of success since a week before the Big 10 meet when competing in Minnesota she had a pair of throws over 50 meters. Another Big 10 highlight for Harris was “a good throw” at the University of Illinois where the javelin passed the Fighting Illini logo on the field.

Harris is having all of this success in her first year competing in outdoor track due to last season being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Harris is a sophomore academically and is majoring in Sports Media and Communication. Harris credits some of her first year success due to her “spending a bunch of free time looking at the javelin” during quarantine.

In addition to Harris, Makayla Kelby from University of Washington, a year ahead of Harris is competing in shot put and discus at the Western Regional. Adding to the feel of a LS West track reunion is three other recent alumni competing at the Western Regional. Jessica Haney from Missouri State (high jump), Erin Sermons at Kansas (4×4 relay runner) and Caleb Furnell of Utah Valley (200 meters). Once Harris landed in Texas she texted “We are here” to LS West Track coach Jesse Griffin.

Harris is currently ranked sixth in the nation in the javelin and it would be no surprise to anyone if her next text to her high school coach has reports of new personal record and another outdoor championship.