Niles High School sprinter Darius Harris expects the best. Nothing less will do.
His aim was this year's state track and field meet. Mission accomplished as he qualified in the Division II 100- and 200-meter dashes.
"He's always had an eye on his season in high school ending in June," Niles track and field coach Jim Fedor said. "He didn't want to end those last two weekends in May. He wanted to go to Columbus and see what he could do. He always had the drive that he could make his season as long as he could make it. He definitely had the drive to get down to Columbus.
Tribune Chronicle file photo / R. Michael Semple
Warren G. Harding’s Dalyn Gattison, left, Howland’s Brendan Cope, center, and Niles’ Darius Harris compete in the 100-meter dash during the Trumbull County Track Meet in May. Harris won the race. The Niles graduate has committed to Indiana Tech.
"It was unfortunate he didn't get on the podium. You know what, there's a lot of kids that don't get to Columbus at all. It was definitely his drive and his determination."
It was that drive and determination that has landed Harris at Indiana Tech University in Fort Wayne, Ind., this fall. Harris will be running for an NAIA program that made the national outdoor championships this year. The men took fifth, while the women were ninth.
"It's still pretty great that I'm going to a program that is excelling as well as they are and hopefully their success can rub off on me," Harris said. "To be up to par as well as the school, to help me so I can help them."
Harris has been part of a successful Niles program that started to send sprinters to state since 2008. That year, the 4x100 relay finished in the top eight in Division II.
"I like to think it would mean that success helps build numbers," Fedor said. "It was an odd year this year, our numbers were down despite recent successes.
"I think the success is starting to get noticed a little bit. There's kids in the school that are saying they want to be part of that."
Next season, Harris, who will major in business management, knows he wants to be part of Indiana Tech's program.
"When I visited the campus and I got a chance to meet with the coach and just talking to him, he told me how it would be able to help me more than with all the other options I had in store," Harris said. "It would help me with my 100, 200 and be able to help me get stronger and faster."
Having someone like Harris go on to college says something for the Red Dragons program.
"Any time any of our athletes gets to move on to the next level and compete, it's lends credibility to our program that they can get and education and continue to compete," Fedor said. "I'm proud of the kid. Every one of our kids that go on to compete, I'm proud of."
When Harris competes at Indiana Tech, he wants to make those in Niles proud of his exploits.
"Since I'm at the next level, hopefully I can build from my success from the past to compete up with the next level," he said. "And if I work hard enough, actually, my main goal is to get to the top of the next level. I'm going to be training hard."