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Thursday, 13 August 2015 15:36

UW-W's Brett Harms was born to run ... and run

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UW-Whitewater’s Brett Harms, a Whitewater High School grad, will compete in cross country and track with the Warhawks again this year as a sophomore.  UW-Whitewater’s Brett Harms, a Whitewater High School grad, will compete in cross country and track with the Warhawks again this year as a sophomore. Michael McLoone/UW-Whitewater Athletics

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- No one has deeper roots in their community or stronger family ties than the Harmses of Whitewater.

Gary Harms has worked at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater since 1985, and his wife, Judy, has coached the Whitewater High School girls basketball team since 2000.

Their daughters, Leah and Kelsey, played for their mother, who led the Whippets to the WIAA Division 3 state title last spring, and are employed at UW-Whitewater, where Kelsey is finishing her degree in early childhood and special education.

The youngest family member, Brett, soon will begin his sophomore year at the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference school, where he is a member of the cross-country and track teams for the Warhawks.

Harms said it didn’t take long for him to decide that staying home was the right choice, mainly because of the already strong personal connections to the institution and the level of competition.

“I knew I wanted to keep running, and I considered going to a smaller NCAA Division I school, but the more I thought about it the more D-III was for me,” Harms said. “I knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park because the WIAC is the toughest conference in the country, but I felt I would enjoy success sooner. My (current) coach, Jeff Miller, is a family friend, and his son, Dawson, I wanted to follow in his footsteps. And my high school coach, Chad Carstens, went there.”

So, even though he earned honorable mention status in basketball his final two prep seasons, Harms was destined to continue his running exploits.

He won three Rock Valley Conference and sectional titles in cross-country, placing fifth at the D-2 state meet his final two years. Harms also reached state three times in track, finishing in the top 10 every trip in the 3,200 meters, including a high of fifth as a senior.

Harms was one of UW-Whitewater’s top runners last fall and followed it up during track season, adding a new event to his distance repertoire, the steeplechase.

He said he was happy with his first taste of collegiate competition, but he already has loftier goals in mind.

“In high school I didn’t have a lot of competition, but in college everybody’s good and I have a bunch of guys I can run with here,” Harms said. “Our conference meet (in the WIAC) was tougher than state was in high school. But the transition was easier than I thought it would be.

“I was our No. 2 or No. 3 runner most of the time last year, and I would like to be among our top four again,” Harms added about cross-country, in which he set a personal best for the 8K event at 25:24.6 at the Midwest Regional in Oshkosh. “Last year could have been better, but I’m happy how the season went because it was the first time I’ve run year-round and everything was new. I know what to expect this time. My main focus will be stressing less is more, and I would like to get to the national meet.”

A big part of the newness he had to overcome was the steeplechase in the spring, a 3,000-meter event that features five hurdles/barriers and a water jump per each of the seven laps. Dawson Miller, also a Whitewater High School grad, went on to win the national title.

“I wanted to make a name for myself in my own event, but after talking to Dawson, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to try it,” Harms said. “It was all new to me, but it was a good first season. The only difference from training for typical running is doing some hurdle drills and working on your form.”

This coming track season, he will continue to run the 5K, but his concentration will be the steeplechase.

“Once I started, I really liked it and started training for it and kept getting better,” he said.

His goal in both sports is simple.

“In cross-country, the top 35 earn All-America honors, and in track it’s the top eight finishers,” Harms said.

Harms’ quest in cross-country begins Sept. 19 with the Tom Hoffman Invitational.

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