By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
This November last, Dana Holgorsen snookered Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners by moving Tavon Austin to running back, the result being that Austin rushed for an incredible 344 yards, breaking the West Virginia University record for rushing yardage in a single game.
The man who held that record, from the opening game of the 2004 season against East Carolina, was a bruising speedster out of Florida who had been athletic enough to play a few seasons of minor league baseball before taking up college football.
His name was Kay-Jay Harris, and you can find some of what he did that day on YouTube, which is suggested if only to help you understand just how unbelievable this next statement really is.
Here is that statement: Kay-Jay Harris, former WVU record holder, minor league baseball player, NFL player, may not be the best athlete in his family.
It well may be his daughter.
Kailiece Harris recently finished ninth out of 16 runners in the 400-meter finals of the Florida State High School 1A Track and Field Meet.
What’s so spectacular about that, you ask?
Nothing, except she’s in the seventh grade, and the time she ran, 58.41, is faster than the fastest time put out by any West Virginia high school girl this season. In fact, only two West Virginia high school girls are listed as having bettered 60 seconds flat in the 400.
“Not too bad for a 7th grader, you’re already my champion. Girl they have 5 more yrs to put up with you,” Kay-Jay tweeted to his daughter
Indeed, they do, for in Florida when you attend a private school, as Kailiece Harris does at Carrollwood Day School in Tampa, you can begin competing at a high school level in the sixth grade — and young Miss Harris obviously is ready for it.
Proof? She finished second in the regional leading up to states.
Kay-Jay Harris saw that one, and this is the way he feels as he watches her compete.
“It’s emotional at times because I’m getting to see something I created, my child. Every man wants a son, but fortunately my daughter is like a son to me because she excels in sports,” he said.
Not that he doesn’t have a son. In fact, he didn’t get to see the state meet because his 10-year-old son Kay-Jay Jr.’s 8-on-8 football team practiced that day and he’s a coach, the only one who was in town to run that practice, and when you are coaching a team that a year earlier when 19-0 and won the national championship, you don’t miss practice.
But right now it’s Kailiece that has him and her mother, Tyangela, a former high school track star herself, fired up.
“I see her talent. I see things in her that other people don’t see,” Kay-Jay Harris said.
“Like her size. She has that. She has the size to improve more than anyone else. Physically, she’s going to have it. She’s doing what she’s doing now and she isn’t even lifting weights. We didn’t want to start her on that this early.”
This year, though, Harris promises he is going to get her started with a light weight program, just to introduce her to it.
Kailiece got started running track when she was 5 or 6, also played some volleyball for a while, but gave it up to concentrate on the track.
“I’d like to get to the Olympics,” she said in a recent phone call.
There’s a lot between seventh grade and the Olympics, of course, and Kailiece is going to have to really push herself, something she doesn’t like to do but is willing to do.
“I run three or four times a week ... and it’s painful,” she said. “It’s not like you like it, but it’s worth it.”
“She loves it,” Kay-Jay said. “It’s something she has talent for. She complains about working hard, but when the gun goes off she runs like she just got out of jail.”
Meanwhile, Kay-Jay is trying to teach her how to compete, trying to make her understand that you compete to win and that the numbers sometimes can throw you off.
“She checks all the numbers, and I get annoyed by that. I’m not a numbers guy,” he said. “My motto to her is some days you have it; some days you don’t. You may beat someone with a slow time, but you still won. Sometimes you run to the competition. You may win and run your worst time.
“It’s like Ricky Bobby said, ‘If you don’t win, you lose.’”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.