Brookfield East's Alisha Harper has accumulated a list of impressive track and field accomplishments during her career. But to the talented senior captain, it's all about the team.
And that's fine with veteran coach Lisa Foss.
"She is very driven. She has goals she wants to accomplish for herself as well as her team," Foss said. "She really tries to hold herself accountable for those.
"She doesn't like to brag. She is very careful about what she says, which tells you about what a good person she is. She is very supportive and proud of her team."
Harper has been on the varsity for four seasons and is a four-year letter winner, two-time captain, two-time team MVP, three-time state qualifier, one-time state runner up in triple jump. She has broken four school records in the past three track seasons.
Harper is an outstanding jumper in both the long and the triple jump, and runs the hurdles and relays. Yet when asked about what event she enjoys the most she talked about being a part of the relays.
"For running I am a big fan of the relays — our 4x2 and our 4x1," she said. "That really gets me excited when I'm on those relays. For the relays, I anchor them, and I always remember it's for my team. When I'm on a relay I really enjoy running for the girls, hoping everybody PRs (sets a personal record)."
Foss talked about the team goals and how Harper has helped her reinforce them.
"Our team goal and mantra is 'Together and fearless, go after what we want,'" Foss said. "As a second-year captain she helps me get that goal across. This is our closest and strongest group yet. The more we emphasize that we are doing this for each other — because track can be looked at as an individual sport — it helps all of them do better. There is always a lot more pressure when it's just you."
Harper, who first got on a track team as a seventh-grader at Pilgrim Park, talked about how track helps her get rid of some of the pressures a teenager has to deal with.
"It takes my mind off everything," she said. "I work and I go to school, so things can get stressful. I would sooner focus on the pain (of running — 'I get a thrill out of it') than the stress."
Harper said her family influenced her decision to go out for track.
"My family's focus is basketball and track. Those are our two sports," she said. "That's our thing. I played basketball my freshman year, but then I figured track would be my better sport. I can get a scholarship in the sport (which she did at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)."
And Foss is happy for that decision.
"She cares so much. Track is her passion," she said. "She decided at an early age she was just going to focus on track and put in the time she felt was needed to compete at the state level."
And put in the time she does, as her offseason workouts begin as soon as the state meet is over, working with strength coach Brendan Gonring and his brother, Cameron.
"After track ends, we do a variety of workouts until track begins again," Harper said. "I have a long offseason, but I'm working out all the time. It keeps me in shape and having that break builds up that anxiety and the desire to get back and competing."
The Spartans won the Greater Metro Conference Indoor this year, the first leg of the Triple Crown this season, after having played second fiddle to a powerful Brookfield Central over several years.
When asked how she felt having such a good team in the past, but still coming in a distant second, Harper gathered her thoughts before answering.
"I would say that people who get first place deserve first place," she said. "Yes, it was frustrating because you want to beat the first team. I think it helped us refocus. It was humbling at the same time, but it pushed us to keep working."
And even though she won three events and finished second in one, it was all about the team, afterward.
"I was very proud of my team going into this," she said. "We have a lot of new talent, more so underclassmen, sophomores are the new talent. I cried. My team made me very, very proud.
"The expectations of others weren't too high for them, but they just went beyond. It's awesome. I'm really, really excited about our future."
This is to be her last shot at going to the state meet in June, and Harper has been thinking about it since scoring only 1 point in three events last year.
"Things don't always go your way — and they didn't for her at state last year," Foss said. "She didn't have the performance that she wanted and that she was capable of. She cut out the article that was in the BrookfieldNOW, highlighted what she did and hung it up and said, 'This is my motivation for next year.'"
Foss knows that the end of the season will come faster than she wants it to, and then Harper's outstanding preps career will be over.
"I'm going to miss her — she has been like a little sister at times," she said. "She was a wonderful leader by example. She spent more time than any athlete I coached in the weight room in the offseason. She organized offseason captains' meetings.
"She's just a good kid. I hate to to see her go."
Lady Spartan Invite — Won the 200-meter dash and the triple jump.
GMC Indoor — Scored 38 points and outscored both West Allis teams by herself. Won the 55-meter high hurdles, the long jump and the triple jump and also finished second in the 200 dash.
Doug Johnson Invite — Broke school record and meet record in the long jump, in her first jump of the year.
School Records — Long Jump (18-feet, 3 inches, in 2014; Triple Jump (37-91/2 in 2013; 4x200-meter relay (1:45.38) with Adriana Gibbs, Cheyenne Fischer, Molly Niemi in 2013.
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