Rheinhardt Harrison Inks With Oregon, Signals Future

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA -- Five years ago, when Rheinhardt Harrison was right around the age of 13, he named his very first puppy 'Duck.' 

Perhaps that's all you need to know about Harrison's love for Oregon. It started early. 

In later years, as Harrison's rise in high school running made way for his prodigious talent, he studied the likes of Cole Hocker and Cooper Teare, modern Oregon athletes who were building new traditions at the legendary program. 

It was no surprise in August, then, when Harrison needed only one official visit to commit to the Ducks. He only needed a few glances at the campus in Eugene to realize what he truly wanted. 

And it wasn't a child-like wonder, either, not some dream which harkened back to this bygone time. This was a deep understanding of oneself. It was an agreement he made for his future.

On Wednesday, Harrison made it official, signing with the University of Oregon on the first day of the National Letter of Intent period. 

"I just want to start off by thanking my teachers, friends, teammates and most importantly my family," Harrison said inside the auditorium at Nease High School. "Without you guys, I would not be the athlete or person I am today. I'm super excited to run for coach Ben Thomas for the next four years of my life. I'm excited to be a Duck." 

Quick, simple, efficient.

Much like a Rheinhardt Harrison mile. The 17-year-old didn't need to say much.

You could read him like a book. You needed just one look at his attire. He was decked out in a black suit, black suede shoes and a signature piece: A green Oregon tie. 

Just minutes earlier, Harrison's high school coach, Ted Devos, walked to the lectern like a hype man preparing a crowd for a history lesson. 

"To create the bright lights, the artistry, the magic and the combination of things that entertain us, the reality is that there's a significant amount of work that goes behind that," he said. "The hard work, the sacrifices, the focuses, the dedication, the execution of strategy and the talent. And be thankful for your talent."

The room was packed with students and parents and teachers.

Devos asked them all to think about the biggest names in sport, the Kentuckys of basketball, the Alabamas of football. He then asked them to consider Oregon, long considered the mecca of track and field. 

Devos said Harrison had earned his spot on that roster.

Devos said Harrison earned a scholarship to run for the Ducks. 

"You must recognize his efforts," he said. 

From Florida state records in the 1,500m (3:46.02), mile (4:01.34) and 3,200m (8:47.43), to state championships in track and field and cross country. This fall, he also set a state best in the 5K in cross country, pocketing a career best time of 14:45.00.

A year ago, Harrison was the Gatorade Player of the Year in cross country -- he is likely to repeat in 2021, too. Harrison doesn't consider himself finished, though. He says he still wants to go after state records in the 800m (1:47.79), 1,600m (4:02.46) and 5,000m (14:24.89). He'll likely run his first indoor races, too. 

And, perhaps most obvious, there is also that beating drum: Breaking four in the mile. 

Of course, Harrison achieved all of those things singularly, but his community got him there, too. His family, his friends, his teammates and his coaches. They guided him, prepared him, taught him the way. 

Now his career speaks for itself. 

"Don't forget who did the work," Devos said. "Whether anyone is watching or not, many people have helped put yourself in successful positions but you've done the work," he said. 

"He is the best athlete that has ever been at this school."