John Carroll's Harris wants team to taste success

December 20, 1992|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Staff Writer

Liz Harris has accomplished almost everything she hoped to as a high school swimmer.

The John Carroll senior has a collection of 10 gold medals from the last three Harford County swimming championships. She also holds a county schools record in her best distance -- the 500-meter freestyle.

But one unfulfilled goal does remain for Harris this season -- helping the Patriots win a county team title.

"Being third three years in a row gets kind of boring," said Harris. "This is my last year, so it would be nice to win."

Last year, the Patriots fell just 14 points behind repeat champ Bel Air and second-place C. Milton Wright.

Coach Al Herlinger nearly pulled the upset, but his strategy forced Harris to make a few sacrifices, including skipping her best event, the 500 freestyle, because the team needed her in other events.

"Last year was an important year for her swimming, because a lot of colleges were looking at her," said Herlinger.

"Liz was disappointed she wasn't in the 500, but she got over it in time for the championship because she knew the team needed her and she didn't want to let the team down."

Harris may have to make similar sacrifices again this year, but she says they would be worth it.

"This year, I'm going to have fun," said Harris, a member of the National Honor Society. "I really like being on this team. I swim with Edgewood [Aquanauts] for my personal bests. On the high school team, I do it more for the social side, being with all my friends."

For Harris, individual records may be out of reach this season because of a recent bout with mononucleosis.

As if that weren't enough, she also tore ligaments in her ankle playing powder-puff football.

Still, those problems haven't kept her from winning.

In Thursday night's quad meet at Magnolia Middle School, Harris won the 200 freestyle and the 100 butterfly while swimming on the winning 400-free relay team.

"I still expect a lot out of Liz, because she's such a fierce competitor," said Herlinger, whose squad finished second to C. Milton Wright, 261-204, Thursday night.

"She came within 3 seconds of her best 100 fly time. Considering what she's been through and how out of shape she is for her -- because the competition was there, she was able to pull something from within."

Harris' competitive spirit emerged when she began training year-round as a 6-year old. For years, she and her brother Stewart, now a sophomore at Bucknell, were among the state's best young distance freestylers.

Swimming with the Edgewood Aquanauts, she set state age-group records in 8 and under, 9-10 and 11-12 age groups.

Every year since she was 9, Harris has competed at the Eastern Zones meet. She qualified for the United States Swimming Junior Nationals last summer but couldn't make the trip.

When she got to high school, Harris started winning right away.

As a freshman, she picked up three gold medals at the county championships. She won the 500 free and the 200 individual medley and swam on the 400-free relay team.

At the title meet, she also broke the county record in the 500 free.

"In the trials, I swam about 5:17 and that was my best time, so when I did the 5:10, I was pretty excited," said the 17-year-old.

As a sophomore, Harris broke the record again and it remains at her 5:08.13 mark.

The boys' 500-free record has stayed in the family, too. Stewart Harris set that mark (4:48.31) in 1991 before moving on to Bucknell, where he set a freshman record for the 1,650 free last year.

Despite her setbacks this fall, Harris is not frustrated. After all, she watched her brother bounce back from a broken collarbone and torn knee ligaments in his senior year at John Carroll.

Instead, Harris is convinced an easy season might pay off next fall when she plans to swim for Duke, Richmond or William & Mary.

"Since I've been swimming for 11 years, I think I need a little bit of a break from serious swimming, so when I get to college I won't be burned out," said Harris, who has not yet returned to the Aquanauts. "I'm still swimming but not quite so intensely."

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