SoHi senior quietly piles up region, state championships

Star excels in shadows

Posted: Tuesday, December 10, 2002

In mushing, it's the lead dogs that often get the most credit. But the other dogs in harness are running just as much, and just as hard.

Soldotna senior Daniel Harro knows how those other dogs in the line feel.

Harro has never been the lead dog in Soldotna's cross country, cross-country skiing or track programs.

But he has zealously followed lead dogs like Brandon Newbould, Andy Liebner, Kyle McBride, Brent Knight and Bill Keller for years. Thus, he has been an indispensable link in several impressive championship chains at Soldotna.

In his freshman through junior years, Harro was on teams that won Class 4A state championships in cross country and Region III championships in cross-country skiing.

As a junior, Harro also ran on a 3,200-meter relay team that took fourth in the state track meet and set a school record with a time of 8 minutes, 18.54 seconds.

"I think he has been in other people's shadows a little bit," said Dan Harbison, who has been either a head coach or assistant coach throughout Harro's cross country and cross-country skiing careers.

"The other side of that is he's had an opportunity to be on a team with those guys, and that's been a positive thing for him. I'm hoping this year he gets a little more recognition."

This time, the person that threatens to keep Harro from that recognition is named Mother Nature, not Newbould or Liebner.

Harro's strongest sport always has been skiing. As a senior, he has shown he's poised to have a standout year in the sport. Last weekend, he finished first and second in a pair of races at Hatcher Pass.

But the reason those races were held at Hatcher Pass is there is no snow on the ski trails of the Kenai Peninsula.

"The dry-land training we've been doing is good for strength, but there's just no substitute for the motion of skiing," Harro said. "I've just go to keep in mind that none of the other teams in the state are on snow, either.

"We're all in the same boat."

To hear Harro complain about the lack of snow in seventh grade would have been unheard of. That year, when John and Denise Harro looked for an activity to wear their son out, they chose skiing and Daniel hated it.

"In my seventh-grade year, I really didn't want to be there," Harro said. "After that, I got in a little better shape and got a little better technique.

"In eighth grade, I had a blast."

Skiing led Harro to his other love -- running. Liebner, a future Class 4A individual state champion, lived a few doors down from Harro and convinced Harro to train before his freshman year.

The running that summer paid off. As a freshman, Harro was the seventh runner on a SoHi team that took the first Class 4A state title in school history.

"I really got to love running," Harro said. "Instead of running to stay in shape for skiing, I started training just for running."

Harro also had a good freshman year in skiing, finishing ninth overall in regions to help Soldotna to its first Region III ski crown.

Driven by that success, Harro fell in with a core group of Soldotna endurance athletes that trained all summer and went on to win two more state titles in cross country and two more region titles in skiing. Harro is hoping to add a fourth region title this year.

Along the way, Harro finished ninth in the skate race as a sophomore at state. He was the only underclassman in the top 10. He also made Alaska's Junior Nationals ski team as a junior.

"It's been a lot of work," Harro said. "You don't win state cross country championships during the season.

"You win them during the summer and winter doing things like weight lifting, running in the rain and throwing up. It's no easy task."

Daniel's father, John, said his son has been able to achieve due to his focus and his willingness to follow instruction.

"He doesn't like anything to be hanging over his head," John said. "If he's got a paper due in three weeks, he'll get it done early."

This has helped Harro to a 3.8 grade point average at Soldotna. It's also helped him get his plans for next year mapped out already.

Harro will attend Chemekata Community College in Salem, Ore., where he will pursue a dual degree in fire science and paramedics. Because Harro will be in the program year-round, he said he should be done in less than three years.

In addition to training, Harro also enjoys running and mountain biking on the peninsula's many trails with his fraternal twin brother, Mark. He also works with Mark in the bike section of Beemun's.

Mark Devenney, the cross country and track coach at Soldotna, said Harro and the example he sets will be missed.

As a sophomore, when Harro had shinsplints and couldn't run during track season, he still didn't miss a day of practice, showing up every day to do mundane things like ride a stationary bike.

"I don't think he falls into the star category," Devenney said of Harro. "But I'll tell you this. I sat in a locker room, and got to hear Joe Paterno say, 'You win with character, not characters.'

"That's exactly what he demonstrates. Character. Every coach would be happy to have a bunch like him."

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