Girard grad Harden a good example at YSU
YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown State’s track and field program has risen to become one of the powerhouses among mid-major colleges. Both the men’s and women’s programs have dominated the indoor and outdoor seasons in the Horizon League in years, and some people feel there’s still more to accomplish.
Take Collin Harden, for example, a senior sprinter for the Penguins.
The Girard High School graduate has already had a decorated career at YSU that includes multiple league championships and the second best time in school history in both the indoor 60-meter hurdles and 400-meter dash.
Last spring he earned himself a trip to the NCAA outdoor track and field championships and set a school record of 50.52 seconds in the 400-meter dash during a preliminary heat.
With all that already under his belt, Harden wants to be a leader for YSU.
“Just lead from the front, lead by experience, lead by example,” Harden said. “I’ve been places of course, and traveling, that makes me have a lot of experience by myself.
“So, just telling the freshman that they could be here too if they work hard.”
YSU sprinters coach David Townsend can testify on behalf of Harden’s work ethic.
“Collin leads in two ways. He leads by example. Collin can be hurt, sore, Collin could still deliver,” Townsend said. “He’s relentless, a very relentless competitor, a very relentless leader on the team.
“He uplifted the entire team, he tries to mold everyone into his image and begrudgingly or not they come. So he’s a leader by example more than anything.”
YSU has sent some its top athletes to highly-competitive meets in the past, but this weekend the entire team has been invited to participate in the Bob Pollock Meet at Clemson University.
Harden is no stranger to facing top-tier competition, but said the unique opportunity can be a big benefit to YSU’s team as a whole.
“The fact that we’re invited there, it just means that we can compete with the top dogs, because we are top dogs,” he said. “So, we definitely are experienced and we’ll be ready.”
Townsend sees the team’s invitation to Clemson as a confidence booster for the Penguins.
“The kids get to compete against kids they’re going to see at the nationals possibly. It gives them that atmosphere that they’re willing to compete in with larger schools,” he said.
“Being a small mid-major, I think it’s all SEC and ACC schools down there (this) weekend. We’re looking forward to the challenge and the kids are looking forward to the challenge and it’s a pleasure knowing that in their minds they can compete.”
The Penguins have already hosted a pair of meets, with the most recent being the YSU Collegiate Invitational last Friday. Harden recorded the fastest time in the preliminaries of the 60 hurdles with a mark of 8.04 seconds.
After that, he was shut down for the rest of the meet after suffering a minor back issue, but he expects to be ready for the meet at Clemson.
Schools of all sizes send runners to the WATTS when YSU hosts meets early in the season. Some of the participating colleges last Friday included Kent State, West Virginia, Ohio University, Buffalo, Cleveland State, Robert Morris, Edinboro, and Carnegie-Mellon, among many other universities.
In fact, Trevor Bassitt of Division II Ashland University broke Chad Zallow’s facility record in the 200 dash with a time of 20.88.
Despite facing some Division II/III schools, Harden said there’s a lot of value in facing competition from a diverse group of different conferences.
“It’s big because these meets some people will look over because of the D3 schools,” he said. “But, there’s plenty of competition in D3.
“Some guys ran very fast today, some girls ran very fast today, so as along as we do what we have to do to take care of what we have to take care of, we’re good.”