Greenbrier High School senior Jeremy Harden can attest to what a difference a year can make.
In 2012, Harden didn’t qualify for the state track meet in the 100-meter or 200-meter dashes, and the 4x100 relay team didn’t make it out of the preliminaries. But at the state meet Saturday, Harden was second in the 100, fourth in the 200, and the 4x100 relay team finished second.
“I just trained a lot harder realizing I could do something with track,” said Harden. “I just put my head into it. My training last summer was just harder.”
Greenbrier sprint coach Johnathan Rucker noticed.
“He has improved,” said Rucker. “After doing AAU for the summer, he’s definitely come back more aggressive and hungry for his senior year. He wants to leave his mark on Greenbrier. He’s set two records already in long jump and 4x100-meter relay, and I know he wants to hit the 100 and 200, which has been here for a while.”
Pushing Harden this year is AAU teammate Darius Watkins from Grovetown. Harden bested Watkins in the 100 at the state meet, while Watkins took home the state title in the 200.
“Me and Darius, we’ve been head-to-head since indoor,” said Harden. “We’re always friends. We’re friends on the track, but it’s serious.”
The training paid off for Harden. A dual-sport athlete, Harden rushed for 467 yards and two touchdowns and received 2012 football All-County honorable mention. Sticking with track, he made visits to Ole Miss, Georgia Tech and Georgia, and committed to become a Bulldog just before sectionals on April 27.
“Georgia, it was close to home, it was SEC, I love the SEC,” said Harden, who plans to study sports medicine. “I mean, it was a beautiful campus, I just loved the environment, loved the coach. It seemed like it was somewhere I could live for my four years.”
With Harden running track since eighth grade, the sport has become a family affair. He ran with older brother Gavin on the 4x100 relay team in 2012, and showed his sister Brianna, a Greenbrier freshman, the ropes this year.
“It was cool having my brother with me on the track,” said Harden, who called his brother his best friend. He had no notion of joining Gavin at Hampton University, however.
It was a different vibe with his younger sister on the squad.
“It was cool because I kind of felt like it was my duty to mentor her through her first year,” Harden said. “I love my sister. She’s done well. She made it to regionals and sectionals, and that’s pretty dang impressive – for a freshman, anyway.”