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After taking a year off, Torri James returns to high jump dominance at mom’s request

Torri James leaps over the bar during her high jump attempt. By Carl Edmondson Jr.

What mom says, goes.

But Torri James really, really did not want to get back into track and field this year.

As a freshman, the Rossview Hawk placed silver in the state in high jump, scoring eight points on the 5-06 jump. It was her first season competing in any kind of field event, and it looked like it might be the last.

But her mom, Lisa Harrison, had something to say about that.

“The first year, it didn’t take a lot of convincing,” Harrison said. “This year? It took a whole lot of convincing. She doesn’t like the independence of it. The weight, the anxiety, the attention. (She’ll play a) team sport all day. She loves team sports. If we lose, we lose together. She hates losing by herself.”

She once again qualified for state in 2023 and placed fourth with a personal record despite all the factors holding her back.

Rossview doesn’t have a high jump coach, nor does it have a mat to practice on. So Harrison, a high jumper herself in the past, took on the role, and the duo had to find mats elsewhere in Clarksville – or even out of the city – so James could practice.

Torri James walks off after her high jump attempt. By Carl Edmondson Jr.

And that’s when she even had time to. A three-sport athlete, James had just gotten back to Tennessee two days before the TSSAA Class AAA state track and field state tournament on Thursday, May 25. She was in Bryan, Texas competing in an Adidas AAU basketball showcase with her teammate, the TN Sol.

And the reason she didn’t compete as a sophomore was because she had committed to play club volleyball. She was still doing that this year, too, on top of high jumping and AAU, forcing her to miss a lot of volleyball games.

To review, she didn’t have a staffed coach, a place to practice, or any time to practice.

She still made state.

“It makes it a lot more difficult, especially with my schedule,” James said. “I just got back from Texas for basketball two days ago for AAU, so with my schedule and not having a coach and having to find a mat, whether it’s at a high school, you have to make a drive because not everyone has a mat in Clarksville, it made it 10 times more difficult.”

Playing those other sports has helped her in the high jump, James said. Volleyball’s straight-up jumps at the net help with explosion and distance, while layups – and, potentially, dunks – are more focused on finesse and control.

“Every sport that I do, my legs get stronger,” James said. “I don’t even go to the gym to work on my legs, because every sport I do, I get better.”

James has offers to play Division I basketball from Western Kentucky, UT Martin, Austin Peay, North Alabama, Long Island, Tennessee State, Miami of Ohio, Kennesaw State and UNC-Asheville. She also has a Division I offer to play volleyball Belmont.

And it’s fair to say that, with how much raw talent she has with the high jump, she could probably compete at the highest level there, too.

Torri James leaps over the bar during her high jump attempt. By Carl Edmondson Jr.

Unfortunately for prospective coaches, it’s her third favorite sport.

“Actually,” James said. “I play golf too. I’d play golf over this.”

Okay, her fourth favorite sport.

And despite that, she’s among the best in Tennessee’s largest class at it.

Mom takes some credit, too.

“I take pride in that,” Harrison said. “A lot of genetics. So I take pride in that. It’s definitely natural. She’s an athlete. She’s athletic. So anything Torri gets out there and does, she’s going to excel at it. And we’re very, very proud of that. But out of the three, we all know track is her least favorite. She did it for mom. She did it because I made her do it. But I’m proud of her. I couldn’t ask for a better result today (in the state meet).”

She’s made up her mind about where she’ll be competing collegiately and, unsurprisingly, it will be in a basketball jersey: James is headed to Bowling Green, Ky. to play for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

The staff has been supportive of her since before she blossomed into the three-sport star she is now. She loves their campus, coaching staff and up-to-date facilities, and the school is close to where her grandma lives.

“I’ve always loved basketball the most,” James said. “Volleyball and track are kind of just something that came naturally and something that I did so that I wouldn’t be laying around while basketball was over. I still enjoy doing volleyball, but basketball is what I love.”

And basketball is going to be the focus going forward. Volleyball could still be in the mix, but Thursday’s meet was her last.

At least until mom gets back in her ear.