By February, many freshmen are finally beginning to settle into a routine, getting a grip on the balance of school and extracurricular activities. But freshman Jarvis Harris has a grip firmer than most.
An hurdler and triple jumper on the Harvard track team, Harris has wasted no time cementing his spot among the team’s top athletes, rewriting a bit of history in the process.
Harris’ collegiate career began with fifth place finishes in both the 60m hurdles and the triple jump at the Harvard Open on Dec. 10. While impressive feats in themselves, they came while Harris was still improving his technique and absorbing lessons from his coaches.
"The biggest thing is adjusting to all these new variables: sleeping in a new bed, having new classes, a new training regimen," Harvard coach Jason Saretsky said. "Usually, if freshmen can get back to where they were their senior year of high school, then they’ve had a great year."
With time, Harris’ comfort level grew, and impressive results followed. At the Battle of Beantown invitational, held Feb. 3 at Gordon Indoor Track, Harris posted a school-record time of 8.11 seconds in the 60m hurdles, besting competitors from Northeastern, BU, and MIT for first place. Prior to Harris’ record-setting run, the mark had stood for 11 years—it was also 0.28 seconds faster than the time he ran in December.
"I didn’t know if I had the record or not," Harris said. "The beginning was a little sloppy. Then, I started to hit my rhythm—one-two-three, one-two-three."
However, there was no opportunity for celebration; Harris was scheduled to compete in the triple jump 10 minutes later.
"The triple jump is a whole different mind game," Harris said. "[The events] are similar, but you have to switch moods. Coach didn’t even recognize [the record]. He wouldn’t show that he was excited."
Following a pair of underwhelming jumps in the qualifying round, Harris recognized his timing was slightly off and adjusted his steps accordingly. On his final jump, Harris leaped 14.42m, claiming another first place finish and a meet record in the event.
But the track is not the only stage on which Harris has starred recently. A few weeks ago, he found himself in the middle of his first modeling shoot, arranged by classmate Melisa Noriega.
Noriega, who lives on the floor below Harris in Hollis Hall, works as a correspondent for Seventeen Magazine’s "Freshman 15" series, documenting the first-year college experiences of 15 students around the country. Her assignment from Seventeen called for Noriega to send in photos of eligible male freshmen that girls might want to "hook up with."
"I had the idea to use him as the more athletic type because of his abs," Noriega said.
"We were taking pictures, then my clothes started coming off until I was just in shorts," Harris recalled. "She had me in different poses: ‘Hold the dictionary!’"
Noriega sent in the photos to her editors at Seventeen, who informed her that they would use one of them in the upcoming February issue. Under the caption "The Smartie Jock," the photo features a shirtless Harris, wearing nothing but blue shorts and sunglasses. The accompanying text, authored by Noriega, indicates that "[Harvard girls] are all crushing on him!"
"People were bombarding me with texts," Harris said. "I went over to the [News of the World] stand in Harvard Square and stood there covertly perusing Seventeen Magazine to see my picture."