Funny how much can happen in a year.

Last winter, former Lewiston High half-miler Isaiah Harris finished 12th in the 800 at the NCAA indoor track and field championships as a freshman, and former Lake Region jumper Kate Hall was 12th in the long jump as a freshman.

Now both are thinking about national titles.

For Harris, an NCAA title seems well within reach, considering that two weeks ago he broke the collegiate record in the 600 meters with a time of 1 minute, 14.96 seconds at the Penn State National Open. He became the third person ever to break 1:15 in the event.

The runner who beat Harris that day, Casimir Loxsom, is a former Penn State track star turned pro. Loxsom broke the world record to win in 1:14.91. Harris broke Loxsom’s collegiate record (1:15.79) set in 2013.

“Isaiah is a great competitor. I did think it was within his capability,” said Penn State Coach John Gondak. “He came within a hundredth of a second of the world record; that’s a blink of an eye. But I’m thrilled with everything that Isaiah does. He believes when he steps on the track that he can accomplish anything. That’s what makes him who he is.”

The performance earned Harris a nomination for the Bowerman Award, which is given to the nation’s top track and field collegiate athlete.

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around it,” Harris said with a laugh. “I knew that was (Loxsom’s) goal. We talked about it before the meet. He knew the last 200 I was going to be coming for him. Obviously the collegiate record is not bad, either. It was in my head: If I stay on his shoulder and go with him, something great will happen.”

Gondak said Harris’ finish at the 2016 NCAA indoor championship was an outlier in his collegiate career and the only time he faltered on the track. Last year Harris won the Big Ten indoor 800 title (1:46.24), then won it outdoors (1:46.21). He went on to finish fourth at the NCAA outdoor championships to earn All-American (1:45.76). Then, at the Olympic trials, he ran the event three times in four days and qualified for the finals. He placed sixth in 1:46.47.

It was a remarkable year considering Harris only broke 1:50 once in high school, when he took third at the 2015 New Balance outdoor national championships (1:49.63).

Gondak said none of it surprises him given that Harris played basketball in high school and never ran cross country in earnest.

“He is, in my mind, one of the best in the NCAA,” Gondak said. “That’s why I believe he can be in the hunt for a national title this year.”

Harris’ best 800 time this year – the 1:46.65 he ran in Kentucky on Jan. 20 – ranks him second in the nation.

“A perfect season for me would be a national championship, whether indoors or outdoors, whichever that may be,” Harris said. “I”m having fun with it. We’re trying to get our (distance relay team) qualified for nationals and if we do, I may run that, too.”

Meanwhile, a year ago Hall had every reason to expect better than 12th place at her first NCAA championships with two national high school titles to her name. But she said Iowa State, her school last year, was not the right fit and she was fatigued going into the meet.

Now at Georgia after transferring schools in September, Hall feels strong and ready.

She opened the season in Clemson, South Carolina, soaring to 21 feet, 3.25 inches in the long jump to take second behind teammate Keturah Orji, who won in 21-4.25. Hall’s mark put her sixth in Georgia’s record books and fifth in the nation this year. She is also the top sophomore.

And in the 60-meter dash she took third after running 7.35 in the preliminary heat to post the second-fastest time in Georgia history behind Olympic gold medalist Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie (7.24).

“I’m excited to see where the rest of the season goes,” Hall said. “Last year was very different. I don’t think about that too much. That’s in the past.

“Now I’m at Georgia, and it’s totally different and I love it. I don’t feel pressure. I’m focusing on getting better every day.”

Hall enjoys training with Orji, a junior who competed at the Rio Games, and senior Kendall Williams, an Olympian and five-time NCAA champion in the heptathlon and pentathlon, as well as other nationally ranked jumpers.

And Hall believes in Georgia Coach Petros Kyprianou. Her sprint intervals are fast and weight lifting regimen is intense, but Hall is allowed plenty of recovery.

“It’s crazy how my coach looks at what I’m doing and knows exactly what I need to work on and fix, or exactly what I did right,” Hall said. “It’s really cool. Training is closer to what I did in high school. I’m psyched with it.”

This year she’s focused on her team as much as herself. The Georgia women hope to win the NCAA team championship, and that provides added motivation for Hall.

Kyprianou said Hall’s success at the first meet indicates she’s not only adjusted very quickly to a new school but to a new training method. He said it’s a good sign Hall could pull off a big performance.

“Winning an NCAA title is definitely on her agenda,” Kyprianou said. “However, my priority is to get her to be consistent and confident … Who knows? The sky is the limit for athletes like Kate. Remember, she’s a team player and being a part of this group of special ladies at Georgia motivates her even more to go out and do something special.”

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or at:

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