WARSAW – The Warsaw boys track program has enjoyed an amazing run of success over the last six seasons.
It’s guys like Joseph Harness who have made that kind of success possible year after year.
Harness, who has overcome a back injury to return to competition, may not get the headlines or score a ton of points for the Tigers this spring.
The hard-working and humble high jumper, though, will bring plenty to the table for coach Matt Thacker’s team.
“Joe is just a great kid to have around,” said Thacker. “He’s the type of kid who we want in our program. He’s a hard worker who will do anything.”
Harness will be counted on for senior leadership on a program that is known for its seniors providing the direction. The Tigers lost a high quality group of seniors from last year’s team that won its sixth straight Northern Lakes Conference meet title, its sixth straight sectional crown and its third regional championship in the past four years.
Warsaw, which has won 41 straight conference meets since a loss to Concord back in 2011, graduated its top two high jumpers in Brock Riley and Luke Wilson. The pair tied for third-place honors in the Goshen Sectional in 2016 and then Riley placed fifth and Wilson seventh in the Warsaw Regional.
“Joe’s been in the program all four years and he knows what we have done,” Thacker remarked. “He knows the expectations that we have for the program. I expect him to lead by example for us. We talk about each person in the program, be it a coach or a student-athlete, just doing their job.”
Harness, for his part, is ecstatic to be able to jump. He cleared 6-2 early last season before his back issue flared up.
“It’s a true blessing and a privilege for me to be part of this program,” said Harness. “To have the great coaches and the great facilities that we do. It’s a huge honor to be a part of it and something that I take great pride in.”
Harness suffered a fractured lumbar in his back during his sophomore year. He did not have surgery, but spent 3-4 months in a back brace and had to undergo physical therapy.
“My back feels fine now,” said Harness. “I lift every day and really have not had any problems with it. It’s really kind of a miracle though that I can high jump. My parents (Mark and Patricia) really had an impact on me when I was injured. They continued to tell me to look at the positives. I just thank God that I was able to persevere through it.”
Harness, who has 10 siblings, has also played football for the Tigers, where Thacker serves as the program’s offensive coordinator. He played linebacker, safety, receiver and backup quarterback on the gridiron last fall for coach Phil Jensen’s squad.
Harness says he enjoys the challenge that track provides.
“I like the competition and I like the fact that it makes me push myself, both mentally and physically,” noted Harness. “It makes me accountable and I like that.
“I expect myself to be a great leader for our younger guys this season. I just want to go out there and do what is best for our team and whatever it takes for me to be a great leader.”
Warsaw was scheduled to host East Noble and Fort Wayne Snider tonight in its outdoor opener, but that meet was cancelled due to the weather. The Tigers are now slated to open their season at Penn on March 27 at 5 p.m.