Maurice Harris is still learning little nuances of hurling a discus and heaving a shot put.
The St. Francis de Sales senior is having a great season and hopes his best days are still ahead of him.
His recent throw of 184 feet in the discus to win at the Knight Relays established a St. Francis record. It came only a couple weeks after he had set the school mark at 179 feet.
“I wasn’t really good at it at the beginning, but I felt it was always something I could work on,” Harris said. “I just kept getting better and better at it.”
It seems like the discus just goes and goes through the air whenever the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder lets loose.
“The day he broke our school record the first time it was 34 degrees and there was almost like a sleet coming down, but he cranked out our school record that day,” St. Francis track coach George Schaefer said.
Although he may look the part of a football player, Harris stopped playing after his sophomore season to continue trying to improve his discus and shot put skills.
His best effort in the shot put is 59 feet, 3½ inches.
It was an easy decision for Harris, who first picked up a discus and shot put when he was in grade school and became interested in track and field.
He instantly became drawn to the events, particularly the discus.
College recruiters became drawn over the last year to how well Harris can spin it. However, Akron showed the most interest heading into his senior year and it led to him signing a national letter of intent to join the Zips. Iowa and Eastern Michigan were also schools that had strong interest.
Making such a decision prior to the start of the season has allowed for Harris to not place any additional pressure on himself to perform well. With college plans already in place, he’s been able to go out with little more than competing to win and getting better on his mind.
And it’s producing great results.
“I just feel like I’m getting stronger and faster,” said Harris, whose best attempt in the discus as a junior was 169 feet. “Throwing takes a lot of technique and I feel like I’m really starting to get my technique together as well as getting stronger too, and it's all clicking right now.”
In the six months, he has received some instruction from Emily Pendelton, a 2008 Woodmore graduate who was a four-time Division III state girls discus champion. The 2012 Michigan grad was a two-time Big Ten discus champion.
Harris has met about once a week with her to work on his technique ever since being introduced to her by one of his AAU coaches last summer.
Harris, along with Fremont Ross senior Jared Ballenger, who is a cousin of Pendleton’s, are among a group of promising throwers she’s teaching.
Harris was a regional qualifier a year ago, while Ballenger was a state qualifier.
“Certain things my regular coach wouldn’t pick up on, like hand motions and knee drive, and certain things like that,” Harris said, explaining what he’s learned from his meetings with Pendleton. “It’s more using legs and then arms. It used to be I would use my arms and then legs.”
Pendleton, who works in the UM athletic department as an assistant academic counselor while attending graduate school at Eastern Michigan, thinks the sky is the limit for Harris.
“I can’t take credit for what he’s doing because he was already a pretty good thrower,” she said. “I’ve helped him on little things and the mental game to make him a better thrower.”
Maintaining proper follow through and body stance are among the things they have addressed to improve.
Improved technique is only helping Harris make the most of his exceptional strength. He holds St. Francis school records for deadlift (525 pounds) and power clear (300 pounds).
“The biggest thing with Mo is two years ago he quit playing football after his sophomore year and dedicated himself to the shot put and discus,” Schaefer said. “His work ethic is phenomenal. His strength in the weight room is phenomenal, as well. For 215 pounds, he’s put together pretty solid.”
He’s counting on experiencing plenty more memorable days before his high school career is over.
“I really want to win state in discus and see how far shot put takes me,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll try to win state in that too.”