NDSU's Kennedy Harter growing after tough first year

May 22—FARGO — The 2023-24 track and field season was one of the most challenging in Kennedy Harter's life.

The North Dakota State University freshman redshirted this year but competed in nine events as a high jumper and long jumper, unattached to a team. Her final event of the season came on April 24, before she tore her left anterior cruciate ligament during practice in early May.

"Right away it was hard, just trying to realize that I need to come back from this and train even harder and work harder to get better than I was," Harter said. "So that's definitely a challenge mentally."

In the two weeks since her injury, Harter said she has already gained more mobility than she thought she would have at this point.

"I haven't gotten surgery yet," Harter said. "I'm still waiting to hear back when I can do it. It hasn't been too bad."

The injury occurred to the leg that she jumps off of. Harter said the injury is the first major injury she's had in her life.

"I'm not 100% sure but I'm hoping since it is my jump leg, my more used leg, that I have an advantage to heal a little faster and get it working more," Harter said.

Harter said she is lifting weights and working to not lose any of the improvements she gained throughout the season before her surgery in June.

In the early parts of her recovery, Harter said it was difficult to watch from the sidelines but she enjoyed watching her teammates win the league title at the Summit League Outdoor Championships.

"Joy came out of it but it's always the ups and downs and not the funnest just sitting there but seeing the team succeed is always good," Harter said.

As a member of the Bison, she had three top-five finishes and 12 top-10 finishes. Her season-best leap was 17 feet, 6 inches in the long jump, 5 feet, 1/2 inch in the high jump and 37 feet, 7.25 inches in the triple jump. Harter made her Bison debut in the Dakota Alumni Classic, held Dec. 8-9, 2023.

"It was very fun, very different, competing at a different level, but, the atmosphere with more girls on the team and having teammates is a little different that are all jumpers and we just have each other," Harter said. "The culture was more different, more fun and just a better experience, I think."

In her first collegiate season, Harter said she did a good job of fighting through the roadblocks that came her way. Harter said she was not expecting to redshirt this season but she was eventually convinced it was the right decision by her upperclassmen teammates and coaches.

"I think mostly using the challenges throughout the year and becoming a better athlete as a whole and using teammates to my advantage, just having a better culture helping me out," Harter said.

Harter said she has improved on her form this year and the time on the sidelines will help her figure out how to get better.

"I'm definitely a visual learner so I think it'll help watching my teammates and going through that will help too," Harter said.

The Kidder County product went to the Bison after winning four consecutive state titles in the triple jump. Her career high in high school was 5 feet, 2 inches in the high jump, 17 feet, 2.5 inches in the long jump, and 38 feet, 3 inches in the triple jump.

As somebody who had success in high school, the Steele native said she had to mentally get used to not having the same level of success in college when she began collegiate-level track and field.

"It definitely takes a toll right away, noticing that you're probably not gonna finish first and you have to work harder because they have more experience on you," Harter said. "They have all of everything on you, basically. I think just more having a reason and a drive really helps, because getting not first every time or even placing is hard but you have to realize that they've gone through the same struggles that you have and they're succeeding later on, just gotta trust the process."

During her time in high school, Harter was a multi-sport athlete, whereas in college she is just a runner.

"I think one of the biggest differences is competing and training all year round," Harter said. "It's definitely hard on the body and you go through a lot more struggles at practice then you think. Some weeks your body feels perfectly fine and the next week your whole body hurts and you just gotta deal with all that stuff. Juggling school and sports was not as hard as I thought as well. It's definitely doable but it takes more motivation."

Through her first year in college, Harter said she has grown a lot in multiple different ways.

"I think a tremendous amount," Harter said. "As an athlete, my skills and knowledge has definitely grown so much where I can go back home and help out my siblings and other athletes, helping the program. Definitely, as a leader, in college it's different, there's not one person leading it all, you all take turns, you all have responsibilities and stepping up as a different role as a leader."

Despite not being able to physically help out her former Wolves teammates, Harter said she has gone to Steele to help out as they prepare for the state championships.

"They've been videoing and I've just been giving them some more tips since I can't physically show them," Harter said. "I've given them some drills and given them tips for overall health as an athlete and their events as well."

Harter said the recovery from the torn ACL will force her to miss all of the 2024 indoor season and she is hoping to return for the start of the 2025 outdoor season.

"It's definitely going to be more of a race for time, pushing through and grind back so I can be back for outdoor season," Harter said. "I think it'll be hard to watch the season go by, where I can't compete. But, I can do other things, helping out my teammates, helping coach, see things that I can work on too, to help me come back to my outdoor."

Once she does return to the track, Harter said she wants to continue to work on her technique and her durability.

"I definitely need to improve my strength more this year and my speed to help me transition through my jumps better," Harter said. "So taking more time in the weight room and focusing on my health more to get me where I want to be."