Chris Hargrett has been reduced to a spectator.
The legs that won him a gold medal just months ago were cemented on the track’s sidelines as his former teammates competed in the Florida A&M University relays earlier this semester.
“I was just on the sidelines, and it hurt,” Hargrett said. “It hurt to see them smiling and laughing while they were running their hearts out,” said the track star. “It was precious stuff man.”
Hargrett was forced to embrace the reality of rooting his team on from the sidelines of the 2007 track season after he was declared academically ineligible.
According to the University, Hargrett was four and a half hours short of the required hours for his major.
The news came on the coattails of Hargrett’s heralded junior year where he won the 2006 MEAC 100 conference title and 200 meters.
“Actually, my coach came right around the end of the season and told me I wasn’t going to be able to run,” Hargrett said.
The award-heavy summer did not have any bearing on the University’s decision to sideline Hargrett for the 2006-2007 campaign. Hargrett said while he accepted the decision, he was never actually sure he was in fact ineligible to take the field.
“I never actually got a real explanation,” Hargrett said. “They never sat me down and said, ‘OK here is what’s missing.’ There was no paperwork. No conversation about what I needed to do. They just said I couldn’t run anymore.”
Hargrett’s misdirection started when his academic advisement didn’t mesh well with the advice he’d received from the academic adviser in his major.
Hargrett said his adviser didn’t really know about any athletic requirements.
“She was just telling me the classes I should take,” he said. “She did everything she was supposed to do. There just wasn’t enough communication.”
While he doesn’t blame the advising process completely, he said the cloud of inconsistencies that hovers over the advisement process has frustrated him and the Rattler track team.
“I love my school. But at the same time when I heard it, I was kind of like ‘Here we go again’,” Hargrett said. “There has been so much back and forth with them for so long. It was just a lot of built up frustration.”
After hearing that he would be hobbled in his anticipated senior campaign, the Orlando native took those frustrations out on a national stage in the 2006 North American, Central American and Caribbean U-23 Track and Field Championships. Hargrett went to the Dominican Republic and took home a gold medal in the 4×100 relay and a bronze medal in the 100-meter final.
“That was a really great time for me. I really enjoyed running in that competition,” Hargrett said.
The impressive showing in the Dominican Republic made Hargrett the third Rattler in the last three years to compete nationally after Sheldon Morant(2004) and Kevin Hicks(2005).
Still, Hargrett had to deal with the fact that he wouldn’t take the field wearing orange and green this season.
But Hargrett wasn’t the only Rattler trying to cope with the loss. The men’s track team had to cope with the void spot on the roster left by the star.
“I was definitely in shock,” said sophomore Ernell Cook. Cook ran with Hargrett in the 4×100 last season. “I just couldn’t believe he wouldn’t be running with us this year. He played such a key role for us, and to not have him there was tough.”
Cook said Hargrett served as a mentor to him in his first season.
“He made us work harder in practice. He made everyone around him want to step up,” Cook said.
But with Hargrett no longer suiting up for the team, Cook said the Rattlers have had to step up more now than ever.
“Without Chris, everything just got a lot harder,” Cook said. “At first we kind of struggled to adjust, but now things are finally starting to be OK.”
Men’s track head coach Rey Robinson said the team could have benefited from Hargrett’s presence on this year’s freshmen-heavy squad.
“We have such a young team, and when you lose a guy like Chris it hurts your team,” Robinson said. “We are rebuilding. If he were eligible it would have been a big help.”
Hargrett said he is still holding out hope that an audit will reveal a mistake that will allow him to take the field for the Rattlers for one more season.
“Well for now Chris is ineligible. Barring a different result from our next audit he won’t be able to run anymore,” Robinson said.
He went on to stating, “but I feel we have to double check because there are two departments that advise him, so we have to make sure.”
In the meantime, Hargrett will have to wait in a place that has become all too familiar – the sidelines.
“I really love the University,” he said. “Hopefully I will be able to run for us again.”