Sophomore Harper wins state hurdle title


Paul E. Ward - Atlanta Track Club

Sophomore Danayja Harper clears the hurdle during her 300 meter hurdles race, setting a school record and placing first in the state meet with a time of 42.19, ranking her 20th in the 300 hurdles in the United States.

Ellie Palaian

The girls track team ended the season 13th in the state with an individual state champion and state runner up in the hurdle events. 

Sophomore Danayja Harper won the state meet in the 300 hurdles in 42.19, shattering the school record she set last year by a second. She also finished state runner-up in the 100 hurdles, also in a school record time of 14.45. Harper currently ranks 20th nationally in the 300 hurdles.

“It’s not as exciting as it was the first time, considering I have broken school records multiple times,” Harper said. “But it is definitely a pat on the back because I’m improving and setting high standards for the next athlete.”

Harper remains positive about her performance throughout the season

“There were a lot of ups and downs this season, to the point where I was questioning my talent and starting to feel like I fell off, but it was definitely a season that’s unforgettable, and I learned so much,” Harper said.

Harper is seen as a role model by her coach and teammates, and is known to be a positive, determined athlete.

“[Harper] is incredibly impressive,” sophomore teammate Cate Barton said. “She is so determined when it comes to track, and she inspires the rest of the team to do their absolute best.”

Head coach Joshua Washington believes that Harper will continue her success as she moves into her junior year.

“[Harper] won state this year, and she’ll be back next year as an upperclassman, and I think she’ll do even better next year,” Washington said. 

Joining Harper in scoring in the state meet were Barton, who finished eighth in the 800, sophomore Jada Stanford, who was sixth in the triple jump and freshman Amelia Stevens, who finished eighth in the high jump.

Harper credits the coaches for the team’s success not just in state, but throughout the entire season. 

“Our coaches play their parts, and they play multiple roles in making us the athletes that we are,” Harper said. “I feel like they’re doing a great job with the little support that they have.” 

Washington also feels that the coaches made a difference this season. 

“This is the first time I’ve had a full coaching staff where I have different coaches over different events,” Washington said. “And I think more so than any other season, we’ve communicated so much, just about the progress of the team, progress of the individual athletes that they coach, and just myself as the head coach, always looking for feedback for things that I might have missed.” 

The team was much smaller this year compared to past seasons, forcing them to make adjustments.

“With the team being as small as it was everybody had to play their roles times two,” Harper said. “There was not much room for backups because everyone had multiple roles, not only the coaches but the athletes too.”

Along with the small size, the team faced many other difficulties throughout the season.

“We didn’t really have as many sprinters and we didn’t have as strong a distance team as we had last year, due to some injuries,” Harper said. “But we still managed it all pretty well.”

Because of the continuous success of this season, the team was surprised when not as many girls qualified for state as were expected.

“On paper, we had quite a few athletes that were supposed to qualify for state, but the really cool thing about track is that on paper means absolutely nothing,” Washington said. “ There are 16 events in track and there are multiple things in each event that could prevent anyone from performing well.”

Despite the challenges the team faced, Harper believes this season gave the team many opportunities to grow and develop. 

“We broke the school record by four seconds running the 4×200 this season,” Harper said. “We didn’t think we were capable of doing that. But I feel that now, if we just put our minds to it and believe in ourselves, then we can do anything.”

Washington has high expectations for next season.

“Next year our expectations are going to be through the roof,” Washington said. “It’s too early to really tell what type of team we will have, but if this year was any indication about what next year will be, I am excited already.”