Betty Stoddard of Yarmouth with a picture of her grandson, Geoff Harris, Canadian men’s 800-metre champion and now an Olympian. Eric Bourque photo
There will be some people in Yarmouth watching with particular interest when Geoff Harris lines up to run the 800 metres at the Olympics in London.
Harris is from Halifax, but his mother, Sue Harris (formerly Stoddard) is from Yarmouth and her mother (Geoff’s grandmother) is Yarmouth resident Betty Stoddard, who says she is looking forward to rooting for her grandson when he represents Canada in the Olympic Games.
The men’s 800-metre competition is scheduled to take place during the second week of the Games.
“I’m very proud of him,” Betty Stoddard said last week at her King Street residence. “It’s very exciting.”
She described the atmosphere at her home a few weeks ago when she watched on television as Harris won the 800 at the Canadian track-and-field trials in Calgary.
“We were all cheering for him,” she said. “When he won, I’m sure they must have heard us halfway down King Street.”
Harris, a 25-year-old, has been having an outstanding year.
He talked about it briefly by telephone from Toronto recently while getting ready to board a flight to Germany, where he would spend some time training before heading to London.
“I’ve had a really great season,” he said. “I ran five personal bests, consecutively, which was a big accomplishment … and I’ve run my all-time, I think, eight fastest times this year as well, so I’ve had a career-changing season, for sure.”
(His personal best for the 800 is 1:46.12.)
His success this year seems to be more the result of things just coming together than of him doing anything different in his training, he said.
“I’ve always had the tools,” he said. “It’s been a matter of being able to use them all and that’s come from a new level of fitness that I’ve acquired. I spent the majority of this spring down in Phoenix training with one of the other Olympians, Nate Brannen (who will run the 1,500 in London) and so got into a really good-quality training group and was able to stay injury-free and everything sort of fell into place. And then the other big thing for me this year is the support from home. The support from Nova Scotia has been really overwhelming.”
The night before being interviewed, Harris had won a race in Toronto.
Sue Harris says she’s not surprised by Geoff’s success this season, given that he had stated his intention of having a good year.
“I know my son well enough,” she said. “When he says he’s going to do something, by darn, he’s going to do it.”
She describes Geoff as a natural athlete who excelled at various sports – including football, in which he was a standout wide receiver with Queen Elizabeth High School – before he started running track.
It has taken a great deal of dedication and hard work for him to get to where he is as a runner, she said.
“He’s travelled extensively while he’s been training and I think that broadens you as a person, so he’s very well rounded in that way,” she said. “He’s very well spoken. He’s very humble.”
When he runs in the London Games, Geoff Harris will have his parents in the stands watching him. His mother said they are scheduled to fly there Aug. 3.
As for the runner himself, while he was getting ready to leave Toronto, he was asked about his family connection to the Yarmouth area.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in Yarmouth,” he said, acknowledging that his visits have been less frequent lately, given the time he has been devoting to training and racing. “But I try get down to see my grandmother as much as I can.”
For her part, Betty Stoddard says her late husband, Paul, Geoff Harris’s grandfather, who passed away in December 2007, also would have been proud of their grandson.