NO. 34

A heralded Hawk

Lashanda Harper ran away from the competition at Harding High School, winning 11 state championships.

Lashanda Harper's high school track-and-field career was unprecedented at the time, and it's been unmatched since.

In leading Harding High School to consecutive state championships in 1995 and 1996, Harper won 11 state titles: three in the 100-meter dash, three in the 200-meter dash, three in the long jump and two in the 400-meter relay.

That's 11 titles in 11 attempts.

The only Indiana high school track athlete, girls or boys, to come close to the achievement was North Central's Maicel Malone, who also won 11 titles. But Malone finished second in the 200 as a sophomore.

Harper is the only athlete in Indiana history to go undefeated in multiple state events. She accomplished her feat in three seasons, since she did not compete as a freshman. Malone's titles came over four seasons.

"(Harper) withstood the pressure of being a so-called phenom ever since she was in junior high," former Harding coach Bill Copeland said. "There were articles about her then, saying her times were good enough to win state. . . . I don't think you'll find a better champion on the track."

Harper's collegiate career has yet to get off the ground, but she has competed only two seasons at the University of Georgia. She has been primarily used in the long jump and some relays. Her final two seasons will show whether she moves up to the national level of some of her Fort Wayne predecessors, such as DeDee Nathan and Cathey Tyree.

Her pure talent is not in dispute. As a high school athlete, Harper also participated in volleyball and basketball.

But it was on the prep track that she was unparalleled. And still is.

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