Harden’s YSU success comes quickly

YOUNGSTOWN — Collin Harden didn’t expect this success.

The former Girard High School athlete made the 300-meter hurdles his with a Division II state title last year.

On Saturday, he made the 400 hurdles his own, etching his name in the Youngstown State record book. His time of 51.98 seconds at the George Mason Invitational,broke the old mark set by Ursuline High School graduate Jay Payne in 1991.

This weekend, Harden goes to the famed Mt. SAC (San Antonio College) Relays about a half-hour east of Los Angeles. The event, which runs today through Saturday, features some of the world’s best track and field athletes, along with some of the elite collegians.

Harden is in the second of six timed finals of the 400 hurdles, Friday at 6:40 p.m. Eastern.

“I just worked hard,” he said of his success in his first season at YSU. “With that work ethic, things come. Great things happen. So that’s why I’m on my way to Mt. SAC. I’m very excited for that.”

Harden improved throughout his senior season at Girard and things eventually fell into place, giving Harden an opportunity which eluded him his junior year — the state meet.

Harden won the Division II state championship in the 300 hurdles. He soon thereafter committed to Youngstown State University. The success in track and field didn’t come as easily as that 2016 spring season.

It started with the 400-meter dash during the 2016-17 indoor campaign at YSU. Harden kept progressing as the enclosed season advanced, eventually placing at the Horizon League Indoor Track and Field Championships at the WATTS. That 400-meter workout helped him prepare for the outdoor 400 hurdles.

“You add 100 meters, but the strategy changes as well,” Harden said. “With that strategy change, you have to build up that endurance. That’s what I did all indoor season with the 400.”

YSU track and field coach Brian Gorby has been impressed with Harden’s stamina, which helped him excel in the 400 hurdles.

In high school, Gorby said Harden used his talent to defeat the rest of the field. During the last part of 400 hurdles is where he’ll get his competitors.

“He’ll run through walls,” Gorby said. “Some kids run the last 100 hurdles and you see them try to survive. He powers through it. He dives at the line. Whether he’s 10 meters up, 10 meters down, you don’t know the difference.”

Harden’s demeanor doesn’t vary. He takes a cue from YSU sophomore hurdler Chad Zallow, who is the top-ranked 110-meter hurdler in the nation after his recent 13.37-second time in the Florida Relays on April 1.

Zallow, a John F. Kennedy graduate, is running against 2012 Olympic Gold medalist — American Aries Merritt. Zallow runs Saturday at 6:30 p.m., in the first of two timed finals. Six of the seven professional hurdlers in the event are in Zallow’s heat.

Carl Zallow, a YSU junior and JFK graduate, runs in the sixth of nine timed finals in the 100-meter dash, Friday at 5:05 p.m.

The other Trumbull County native representing the Penguins at this prestigious meet is Howland graduate Ryan Sullivan, Thursday at 10:15 p.m., in the 10,000-meter run.

Meanwhile, Harden is setting himself up for a possible run at this year’s NCAA Championships in early June.

Gorby said he wasn’t surprised Harden wasn’t celebrating Saturday’s record-breaking day.

“He’s already setting new goals for himself,” Gorby said. “Never happy with where he’s at. Looking how he can better himself the next week.”

That’s just Harden’s way.