CARROLLTON — Pressure doesn’t faze Devron Harper.
If the Heritage senior wanted to defend his Class AAAAAA state high jump championship from one season ago, a successful jump in his final attempt with the bar at six feet, six inches was needed in order to do so Thursday afteroon at Carrollton High School.
“There was pressure,” Harper said. “In that moment, I was just like, ‘hey, this is what I live for. This is what you’re supposed to do.’ The energy is supposed to be high, so I just did my little prayer and asked God to help me through it.”
With one final run, Harper turned in his best jump of the afternoon. In one swift, fluid leap, Harper contorted his body over the bar before flipping his legs up with mere centimeters to spare, landing safely on the other side with a successful jump.
He was the only athlete of five attempting to clear six feet, six inches, leaving Harper that much more satisfied with a deeper 2019 field.
“You have to defend the title,” Harper said. “I told one of the guys before we went out there that I was going to give him a battle again. I just put God first. That’s been my whole motto since I’ve been at Heritage. I thank my mama for rubbing on my legs before I came out here and jumped. She’s a blessing. My dad and my brother, I thank all of them for the support that they give me.”
Despite Harper being the only athlete to clear the mark, a failed third attempt would not have been enough to hand the title over to him. Thanks to a scratch in his first attempt at six feet, two inches, the title would have gone to the eventual second-place finisher, Northview’s Liban Ishmael.
“He’s a clutch player,” Heritage head coach Eddie Snell said. “He always comes through when things don’t look great. He missed the first two attempts, but I still had confidence. As long as he has another attempt, I’m always confidence that he will do what he’s supposed to do.”
Harper’s first-place finish in high jump just came minutes before his second-place finish in long jump, his highest place in the event after back-to-back fourth-place finishes in 2017 and 2018.
After setting the school record at last weekend’s sectionals with a leap of 23-5 1/2, Harper’s 23-4 1/2 was enough to secure second by 1 1/2 inches over third-place Zachary Charles of Lanier.
Having to run back and forth between high jump and long jump, Harper said he will gladly take his second-place finish.
“Hey, as long is it isn’t fourth,” Harper said jokingly. “I didn’t want fourth again. I just wanted to put points up for the team. Eighteen points right now doesn’t look bad. I’m very excited about getting second. Everyone always wants to get first, but hey, if it’s not fourth, I’m good with it.”
As difficult as it is two compete at two events that coincide at the same time, Snell said that if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s Harper.
“One thing that I don’t worry about with Devron is his confidence,” Snell said. “I learned that a long time ago. Mine is up and down because, of course, I don’t control what the kids do. But it’s almost like he’s an extension of me when he’s out there. I was really pleased with him. It was also a deep field in long jump. For him to come out and get second, a step up from last year, that was big for not only him, but for us.”
With the 5-foot-8 track star ready to leave his career behind at Heritage, the senior said he hopes his success leads to even more in the future with the athletes that come after him.
“I just want people to work harder,” Harper said. “Strive to beat what I did. Go out there and try to get past 6-8. Long jump, I don’t even want that school record next year. I want somebody to come in and beat it. I want Heritage to be on the map, that’s the biggest thing.”