Archive for Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Track and field friendship goes the distance

August 9, 2006

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Alexa-Harmon-Thomas, left, and Bridgette Berry have been friends for a few years. Recently Berry moved to Florida, and now the two meet at track and field events around the country.

Alexa-Harmon-Thomas, left, and Bridgette Berry have been friends for a few years. Recently Berry moved to Florida, and now the two meet at track and field events around the country.

Eleven-year-old Bridgette Berry and 10-year-old Alexa Harmon-Thomas lived just a block from each other in Lawrence. Both girls were the same age and though young both were showing promise as strong track athletes not just in Lawrence but also in the nation.

Although they lived so close and participated in the same sport, they both remained relatively anonymous to each other until they both showed up to participate in the Lawrence Track Club three years ago.

From then on the two forged a strong friendship through track and field, a friendship that remained so until just a few months ago when Berry moved across country.

Now the two girls rely on national meets to visit again as athletes on the field and friends off it.

"Their whole friendship was based on track," Harmon-Thomas' mother, Kelly Harmon said. "For their age they are two of the best kids in the entire country and for them to have been on the same team together was great."

Both girls are the same age and of a similiar skill level so pushed each other to achieve more. Now Harmon-Thomas relies on training with kids that are in junior high and high school to stretch her limits.

Despite all the struggles of being apart and changing training partners, both girls don't seem to be slowing down.

Harmon-Thomas capped off the summer season with a first- place finish in the high jump and long jump and a second- place finish in the triathlon at the Junior Olympics meet in Baltimore.

She did so well at the event that she set the national record for her age group in the long jump.

Most track records are set by mere inches or milliseconds, but Harmon-Thomas prefers to set the bar much higher. Days after the Junior Olympics, she was at it again. This time at a Norfolk, Va. meet where she broke a 21-year-old standing record in the high jump by four inches.

Although Harmon-Thomas holds 19 national championships and one world record in the 400-meter run, she takes it all in stride.

"Right now she absolutely loves doing this," K. Harmon said. "She is breaking all these national records, but she is having fun doing it. She is not so focused on breaking all these records. But more with enjoying the sport."

Berry shares the same mindset. Though she dominates the competition, she still finds time to have fun with her friend.

The two girls attended the AAU Club National Track Meet together at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. The meet was a chance for the girls to catch up and spend some time together off the field. Both of their families rented a condo together during their stay.

"Now the only time they can see each other is at national meets. So, the more time they can spend together the better," Kelly Harmon said.

Although they may not get to see each other often, one thing remains constant for the girls: their perseverance and love for track and field. Harmon-Thomas commutes to Kansas City to run year-round with the Draft Pick Academy. She spends upwards of two and a half hours each night training indoors from November to March and outdoors from April to August.

All the effort doesn't seem to fatigue the girls because they understand that track is what brought them together, and it is what will keep them together in spite of the distance.

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