Despite getting a late start in the sport and having to overcome a rash of injuries, Warner senior Harley Ray persevered and created a lasting memory in his first and only appearance at the Class 2A state track meet this spring.
“My first girlfriend’s parents were runners and they talked me into running a 5K race with them when I was in the eighth grade. So I ran the race and it sucked really bad,” Harley laughingly recounted. “But strangely enough I loved it and ran some more 5K races that summer. I ran cross country my freshman year and the coach talked me into trying track in the spring and I fell in love with it. I guess I’m a little crazy but I kind of like the pain of pushing myself and getting a ‘runner’s high’ from it. The adrenalin rush of coming from behind to win a race-there’s nothing like it.”
Track started off well and Ray had established a good time in the 800 meters. But the week of regionals he pulled a hip muscle that sidelined him from a possible run at state. He battled hamstring pulls his sophomore year and didn’t run much at all. Of course, the pandemic wiped out his junior season so he took the opportunity to run a lot and get ready for his senior year. But just before the track season started hamstring issues resurfaced and he missed the first two meets. However, after that he breezed through regionals and qualified in four events for state-the 400 and 800-meter open runs and the 4X400 and 4X800 meter relays.
“We decided to scratch him from the 400 meter open so as not to overburden him,” said coach John Hart.
So Harley knew this was it-his only shot to make some noise at state.
“I was so excited to go to state. As soon as we got there, I was incredibly nervous because I knew I was racing some fast people,” said Ray. “When I stepped on the track for the 4X800 it was the most nervous I had ever been. I even thought I might throw up at one point. But once I started running, the nerves went away.”
And all the disappointment of missing state earlier disappeared as Harley finished second in the 800 and the Eagles finished second in both relays.
“It was awesome to be on the medal stand. I was disappointed that I did get first in anything but I was so happy at what I was able to accomplish,” said Ray.
“We knew he was a determined, hard worker with a lot of talent and it was nice to finally see him get some recognition for that ability,” said Hart.
Besides track and cross country, Harley was also involved in the National Honor Society, student council and was salutatorian of his graduating class.
Ray plans to attend Connors State next fall and run cross country and take care of some basic courses before hopefully transferring to OU.