Springstead junior Bobby Harris doesn’t fit the mold of a typical high jumper.
“He’s so unassuming,” third-year Eagles coach Brandon Wright said. “It’s so funny because this little white kid goes out there and jumps and everyone’s jaws drop.”
The 5-foot-10 Harris has been dropping jaws and dropping records since the seventh grade, when he first jumped 5 feet, 2 inches. By eighth grade he was jumping 5-8. He broke the school record of 6-6 this year. He broke the USF/Steinbrenner Invitational record Saturday at 6-7.
On Tuesday at the Central Invitational, Harris cleared 6-9, extending his personal record and the school’s. He also became the second-ranked high jumper in the state, first in Class 3A.
“He hasn’t come close to his ceiling yet,” Wright said.
The 6-6 ceiling for most high school high jumpers seemed an impediment to Harris getting to the top of the podium at states this year after a runnerup finish a year ago. He jumped 6-6 in 2012 on three occasions; at the state meet last year he had to settle for 6-4 and second place.
Then at the Nature Coast Relays on March 14, 6-6 was no longer enough.
“We raised the bar to like 6-6 and a quarter and we told him that it was 6-6 and a half,” father Randy Harris said. “Once he put that behind him, it unlocked the door.”
Two days later, Harris jumped 6-7 at USF and two days after that he had 6-9 cleared.
“He was well over 6-9 on that jump,” Wright said. “It puts him in a real small class of jumpers.”
The Harris’ have a high jump pit in their back yard.
“We wanted to have someplace for Bobby to practice in the summer,” said Randy, a former higher jumper.
Randy claims that even at 255 pounds, he can still get up and over the bar. Dad’s insider tips have helped Harris clear heights he himself never cleared.
“He has just got fantastic form,” Randy said of his son. “As an ex-jumper I rate everyone I see, and no one has the pure form he’s got.”
And the leaping ability doesn’t hurt, either. Harris is a starting forward on the basketball team. And, yes, he can dunk. He could touch the rim by the eighth grade, grab the rim by ninth grade and dunk by his sophomore year.
“Dunking is easy for me now,” Harris said. “I tried a 360 the other day.”
With the 6-6 ceiling shattered, districts and regionals on the horizon and yet another year of high school competition in front of him, the possibilities seem endless for Harris. He has drawn interest from the University of Miami and Louisiana State, but he’d love to settle in at the local university.
“I’d really like to go to USF, it feels like home,” he said. “I like their track; it’s a great school,” Harris said. “I’d like to be a pharmacist and they have that program there.”
Right now, Harris is focused on 6-10. Even though every inch gets harder as the bar gets higher, both his coach and dad think he can do it.
“He moved up 8 inches last year and he’s still up 3 inches this year,” Wright said.
Photo credit: Ruben Hernandez, Special to the Times