Talented sprinter realizes All-America abilities

Brian Hall

Minnesota women’s track and field assistant coach Sidney Cartwright approached star sprinter Tahesia Harrigan before the 60-meter dash at March’s NCAA indoor championships.

He asked the sophomore whether she belonged in the same class of runners she was about to compete with.

Cartwright received an answer he didn’t expect; Harrigan didn’t consider herself in the same class.

After the talk, the British Virgin Islands native ran a personal best of 7.22 seconds, finishing second, and became the first individual All-American sprinter in school history.

After the race Cartwright once again posed the question to Harrigan.

This time he received an emphatic, “Oh, yes.”

“I went into the meet pretty nervous,” Harrigan said. “But, I know I can compete with the best. I just have to put it in my mind and stay calm.

“I am a little more comfortable about things now, more confident.”

It’s hard to imagine an All-American struggling with confidence issues, especially one who sets school records seemingly every time she steps on the track.

“She can definitely become an NCAA champion,” Cartwright said. “We had to get in her head. We were done with the physical aspect of training. It was time for her to do her part. It was just a matter of mentally going in believing she could do it.”

The records continue to pile up for Harrigan. She owns the Gophers mark for the 60- and 200-meter dashes indoors. In this, her first outdoor season, she’s already scripted her name in the record book as part of the top 4×100-meter relay team in school history.

Harrigan redshirted the 2001 outdoor season due to a stress fracture of her right tibia.

For a healthy Harrigan, setting records is nothing new. Harrigan moved from the British Virgin Islands to Florida with her mother when she was 11.

In high school, she attended the distinguished Florida A&M University development school.

While there, Harrigan won 13 state championships. She was a four-time state champ in the 100- and 200-meter dashes while owning the Florida record in the 100, 200 and triple jump.

Despite these accomplishments, Harrigan might be more proud of being named salutatorian. She is a pre-med major at Minnesota.

“When coaches mention recruits to me,” coach Gary Wilson said, “I always ask my coaches if they are good people and interested in getting a good education. Tahesia wanted an education.”

With the opportunity provided by Minnesota, once again Harrigan was on the move.

“All I knew about Minnesota was it was cold,” Harrigan said. “I wasn’t one of those people who wanted to stay in a particular state. I wasn’t born in Florida so I had no attachment. I was recruited by Florida schools as well as Minnesota, but I was impressed with Minnesota when I visited and I wanted to go somewhere that had a good medical program.”

Minnesota came upon Harrigan by chance.

Cartwright was attending a track meet in Barbados, where Harrigan was competing for her native country.

Currently, she is the only sprinter on the Virgin Islands’ budding track and field program.

As it turns out, Cartwright just happened to be at the event scouting when he stumbled upon Harrigan.

“She is a talented athlete that had a lot of potential,” Cartwright said. “She just didn’t know how to apply it. In a meet like that she wasn’t even one of the top athletes there.

“She did not run the way she can run. She ran like she had not been coached on the way to run.”

Harrigan credits her development as a runner to the coaching she has received at Minnesota.

“Sidney has taught me the mechanics of running,” Harrigan said. “He showed me the proper way of running. You can’t just go out and run. You have to set up your run.”

Combining her All-American talent with formal coaching, Harrigan has the opportunity to end her career as one of the best ever.

“She is really special,” Wilson said. “The nicest, quietest kid you will meet. But, she is a tiger when she competes. She can accomplish anything she wants and I don’t say that too often.”

 

Brian Hall covers track and field and
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