Harden wants to give back to community

Special to Tribune Chronicle / Robert Hayes YSU and Girard graduate Collin Harden heads to the win in the 400-meter hurdles.

YOUNGSTOWN — Collin Harden has been doing some deep thinking as of late, not much of it has to do with his on-track performance.

He wants to give back to his community. Harden, a Girard High School graduate, saw an area version of the Special Olympics take place each May at Arrowhead Stadium — the same place where he excelled on the football field and surrounding track. His basketball and track and field teams volunteered in this Trumbull Country meet.

“I feel as if special needs children should spend as much time out of the classroom as possible,” Harden said. “They should be able to spend time with Division I athletes. We have the ability to put smiles on their faces. We could start a movement that could happen every year.”

Harden, a Youngstown State University junior hurdler and sprinter, won the 400-meter hurdles at this year’s Northeast East Quad with Kent State, Akron and Ashland.

Eventually, he wants to improve to be at this year’s NCAA Division I East Preliminary round in Florida.

“I’m working off of experience right now,” Harden said. “The more experience I get, the better I get in the long run, especially near the end of the season.

“I’m trying to work hard at the beginning of the season so I can proceed and do better.”

He and senior teammate Chad Zallow were part of this year’s YSU football pro day where the two speedsters went back to their football roots and performed quite well.

“It was really fun, actually,” Harden said. “It was an experience. I had fun with Chad and the rest of the football players. I hope I get a call, pray for it.”

It brought thoughts of this past year’s Indians run to the Division IV state championship game. It reminded him when he sped across the Arrowhead Stadium turf and outran many defenders.

“There was a lot of reminiscing going off of pro day, especially thinking what happened with Girard and how I had a good season with my team,” Harden said. “I’m just happy and excited.”

He wants to make this Mahoning Valley a better place through the deeds of himself and his teammates. It’s about giving back.

“I’m trying to better myself as a person,” Harden said. “I’ve been thinking about asking (assistant) coach (Nicole Kent-) Strollo if we can have Special Olympics with the special needs kids, like doing something with the track and field, or even the basketball court so we can get recognition with the community and see that we’re trying to help out.”