Monday, August 4, 2008
1 1 SP NA N 4t The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Harris asesthe Gnanan dream
By ANDY REID
Daily Sports Editor
Maize and blue to red, white
When a Michigan athlete earns a
trip to the Olympics, that particular
transition in uniform colors is the
most common. But several of the 28
athletes and coaches with Wolver-
ine ties participating in the upcom-
ing Beijing Games are making a
different chromatic transition.
In addition to representing the
United States, athletes with Michi-
gan ties will represent Canada,
Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, New
Zealand, Peru, Israel and Guyana.
Adam Harris, a rising senior
for the Wolverines, will shirk red,
white and blue to don a different
color scheme in the Olympics: the
red, yellow and green of Guyana,
his mother's homeland. Harris
will run in the 200-meter dash
wearing those colors.
Although competing for the
small South American country (its
population of 751,000 is about half
the size of Phoenix) may seem like
an easy way to secure a spot in the
Olympic games, Harris and his
stress-filled quest to run for Guy-
ana prove that it was anything but.
A ROUGH ROAD TO BEIJING
With his jaw-dropping natural
-ability, it's easy to see how Harris
has found success at every level of
track he has competed at - from a
stellar high school career to a solid
first two years as a Wolverine, the
Wheaton, Ill. native is always a
vital part of the team he's on.
But no one knew just how good
he was until this year's Big Ten
In that meet, Harris posted
a world-class time of 20.75 sec-
onds in the 200-meter dash, good
enough to qualify for the U.S.
Olympic trials. There was hardly
time to celebrate the performance,
though. Harris, his mother Dar-
lene and Michigan assistant coach
Fred LaPlante immediately began
thinking of the ramifications of the
Could Harris conceivably run
for Team USA?
Should he test his mettle in the
fast-approaching Olympic trials?
Or should he take the more
obscure approach - becoming a
legal citizen of Guyana in order to
run for its national team?
In Harris's mind, the answer
Senior Adam Harris will represent Guyana in the 200-meter dash at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing this month.
"I just thought it'd be nice to run
for my roots," he said.
But, from a coaching stand-
point, LaPlante thought Guyana
was a perfect fit for Harris for dif-
If Harris would have run in the
U.S. Olympic trials, he would have
been tied to the United States for at
least two years.
And even had he committed to
Team USA, there was no guarantee
Harris would make it to Beijing.
"Although he's great, the U.S.
sprint team is the best team in the
world," LaPlante said. "Not that
they're going to win all the med-
als, but the depth they have makes
it very, very difficult to get in. It
was easier for him this way to get.
on the team."
With everyone - Harris, his
mom and LaPlante - in agreement
that running for Guyana was the
sprinter's best option, it seemed it
was almost a matter of time before
he would be participating in the
opening ceremony, the aspect of
the Olympics Harris is the most
There was just one problem:
Harris needed Guayanan citizen-
ship, and no one quite knew how to
go about getting it.
But all it took was a little bit of
luck to get the ball running. Years
ago, LaPlante "had been around"
the Irish national team, when a
young man named Joe Ryan ran
for Ireland. The two have kept in
contact, with LaPlante saying they
go "way back."
It just so happens that Ryan, who
now coaches at Manhattan Col-
lege, is also the coach of the Guy-
anan contingent, and he directed
LaPlante to the proper authorities.
Now equipped with a plan for
getting to Beijing, Harris, his
mother and his coach each became
responsible for a certain aspect
of the job. Harris began training
daily in Ann Arbor. LaPlante began
working with Guyana's Athletic
Federation in order to make sure
Harris had a spot on the team. And
Darlene Harris arranged her son's
dual citizenship, a task that turned
out to be quite a bit more difficult
"Just getting the papers complet-
ed and to where they're supposed
to be, it's pretty hard work," she
said of the weeks she spent pouring
over the paperwork she had to file
with both the American and Guy-
"She put in so much work,"
Harris said. "I am so thankful for
everything she did for me."
But with his citizenship in
limbo, Harris could do nothing but
wait and see.
A MINOR SETBACK
Five hours is a long time to sit
still for anyone. For a 21-year-old
who has spent the last six months
of his life training non-stop for the
NCAA Track Championships and
a potential invitation to the 2008
Beijing Olympics, that much time
spent trapped in the back seat of a
car could feel like torture.
Harris found himself in that
exact situation three weeks ago.
But in the back seat of his par-
ents' car, the Michigan men's
track and field star had plenty on
his mind to keep him busy dur-
ing the trip to Toronto. Of course,
in the back of his mind was the
ever-growing doubt Guyana would
accept his citizenship application.
Harris had more immediate con-
cerns, too - at the end of the road
trip, his first real competition in a
month was waiting for him.
After the U.S. Olympic trials, the
nation's top talent dispersed across
the world to cram in last-min-
ute training, workouts and meets
before the Beijing games. That left
Harris and LaPlante alone to train
in Ann Arbor. While the one-on-
one time with his coach gave Har-
ris seven weeks to tone his body
and train, both he and LaPlante are
concerned with the extended break
in between meets.
"The law of averages would say
that he's at a disadvantage because
he hasn't raced," LaPlante said.
"The other guys are sharp from
See HARRIS, Page 15