At-Large Bid to Nationals Gives UCF's Harris Second Chance

June 4, 2009

ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - After just missing an automatic qualifying spot with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA East Regionals, UCF junior Lizzie Harris (Miami, Fla.) was recently given an at-large bid into the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the high jump.

Harris also just missed qualifying for the 2009 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in March and stayed behind while three teammates went to compete. With the sixth-place finish at the regionals this past weekend, she was again wondering whether she would get an opportunity at nationals.

"I am very excited," Harris said. "Last year I didn't make it to outdoor nationals and I was upset. So this year I really wanted to make it because this year I did not make nationals in indoor and last year I did. I just had to overcome adversity and make it because it would have been heartbreaking if I did not get to nationals.

Harris earned her spot in the field at nationals based on her best performance during the season. Harris won the Conference USA Outdoor Championship in the high jump with a top mark of 5-11.25/1.81m. That jump tied the school record in the event, and the sophomore says she is ready for the opportunity in front of her to perform at an even higher level.

"I am happy to have a second chance because I really feel like I could have won regionals or at least come in the top three," Harris said. "My goal now getting to go to nationals is to jump the height I know I am capable of, which I think is like 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4.

Her jump of 5-11.25/1.81m ranks her 15th in the country heading into nationals. With the top-10 American-born athletes earning All-American status, Harris, along with teammate Tiki James (Miami, Fla.), will have the opportunity to become the first UCF athletes named All-Americans in both the indoor and outdoor seasons. Harris was an indoor All-American in the high jump as a freshman in 2008.

"My focus is on the height that I want to jump and I know I can jump it because when I am out here in practice I do it," Harris said. "When I get to nationals I will not really be focused on the other athletes. I just need to focus on me and the task at hand and the outcome will be there."

The NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, hosted by Arkansas, run from June 10-13 in Fayetteville, Ark. Harris is one of five Knights that will be competing at nationals. Others competing for UCF will be senior Dione Thomas (Jacksonville, Fla.) in the triple jump, juniors LaKendra Thames (Winter Garden, Fla.) and Kelsey Poljansek (Milton, Kan.) in the discus and James in the 100-meter hurdles.

"I think it means a lot to our program to have five people going to nationals," Harris said. "I know all five of us have the ability to make All-American, and I have faith in all of my teammates.

Prior to this season, the program had just one representative at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, LesSundra Ford (high jump) in 2004.

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