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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hardin strives hard for long jump record

Oregon State Football Recruit Brandon Hardin (Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama)

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RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Brandon Hardin wants to jump farther than the state-meet record of 23 feet, 6 inches. CLICK FOR LARGE

Hardin strives hard for long jump record

The Kamehameha athlete is going to Oregon State to play football

LIFE is a series of goals for Brandon Hardin. The Kamehameha Schools senior has already signed a full football scholarship with Oregon State. He's fulfilled the first part of the student-athlete equation by maintaining a 3.4 grade-point average at the Kapalama campus.

Now Hardin, 17, has his sights set on Kahuku graduate Redmond Tutor's state-meet record in the long jump.

Hardin, like many of his football brethren, uses track and field as a means of gaining or maintaining speed and muscle during his primary sport's offseason. More than half of the school's boys track team is comprised of football players, but Hardin's exceptional work ethic is what makes him stand alone, according to his coaches.

"A lot of times I'll see football players have this fortunate thing happen to them," said Kamehameha eighth-year track coach Harvey McInerny Jr. "When they come out for track, it's the last sport of the year, (and) sometimes guys aren't real motivated to go out there and get better.

"In Brandon's case, he's a guy who's already set up, he's got his four years paid for, to come out and do what he's done right off the bat ... it was amazing."

McInerny was referring, in part, to Hardin's 22-foot, 8 1/4-inch long jump that he planted two weeks ago in the second Interscholastic League of Honolulu meet of the year.

Hardin also participates in the 4x100 relay, triple jump and 100-meter dash. But the long jump is his forte. It's where he combines his natural speed and leaping ability. He's been hand-timed at 4.41 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and boasts a vertical leap of 35 inches.

To Hardin -- admittedly a perfectionist -- it's about leaving a mark that will last.

"(A) triumph, I would describe it as (if it happened)," he said. "Something great to accomplish. I watched Redmond Tutor last year break it, and that kind of inspired me to go out there and do my best. If I don't break it, it's not the end of the world, but it's a goal that I have, and if I do, then that's going to be something great."

Tutor set the current state meet long jump mark in the championships at Kapalama last year (23-6), bettering the 1983 record of Leilehua's Koldene Walsh at 23-4 1/4.

Hardin was set to compete in the states last year, but sprained his back during qualifying in the triple jump and was forced to scratch. That allowed him to come into this year as a relative unknown. He participated his sophomore season, but it was only in the triple jump.

"This year is about redemption," the 6-foot-3 Hardin said. "(I) came out real strong hitting the weights prior to track season, just came out explosive so far."

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RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
After track meets, two-sport athlete Brandon Hardin works out in the weight room. CLICK FOR LARGE

Weightlifting coach Les Vincent can attest to that. Hardin played at 180 pounds as a cornerback and on special teams during football season, but hit the weight room with a vengeance between football and track seasons and is now up to a tidy 195.

"He's always looking for what more can he do," Vincent said. As if to illustrate the coach's point, Hardin took to bench-pressing some hefty plates on the spur of the moment.

"He's not satisfied with the status quo, he's not satisfied with the standard workout that everyone else is doing," Vincent continued. "He always wants to do that extra, and that's why he's so successful."

Vincent noted that Hardin appears for extra training every Saturday (beyond the encouraged five-days-a-week quota), and shows up immediately after track meets to lift.

Hardin explained that focusing on form has helped him shave hundredths of a second off his dash times, which transfers to football. But it demands perfection.

"(I'm) a finesse guy, (as) a corner you have to have all the footwork there, overall schoolwork, everything I kind of try to be a perfectionist," Hardin said, nodding. "I'm pretty determined. I always wanted to get a football scholarship and I just worked my butt off for that. I got the fire in me to try to set this record."

He was split between the Beavers and the University of Hawaii, teams that had heavily recruited him before they played at Aloha Stadium last season. OSU won 35-32 as Hardin looked on from the Hawaii sideline. That made his decision more difficult, but he believes he made the right choice in the end, despite the things he'll miss -- "surfing, friends and family" -- from home.

All that's left is to leave his mark on his way out. Coach McInerny has harnessed that determination into a focal point for his team.

"Pretty much," McInerny said with a grin. "He knows that, too. I hate to say it, but he knows that. We may not have the top-quality sprinters we had last year, but if Brandon can take the lead and get us a couple of victories ... we have a chance (in states)."

Consider it one of Hardin's goals.