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Former Olympian has success at World Cup

Champion hurdler Yvonne Harrison continues to find new success as a football player. 

The Lehman High School track start, before graduating in 1993, played her first season as a member of the New York Sharks football team, leading her to a new thrill as a starter for the USA flag football team at this year’s World Cup in Montreal. 

Only four years removed from finishing 14th out of 48 runners in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, Harrison traveled to Montreal last month for a new experience. 

“It was one of the greatest thrills of my life; second of course to my Olympic experience,” said Harrison, who was only one of 11 players chosen for the team.  “Whenever you can represent your country, whether on a small scale or a large scale, is just a phenomenal opportunity I will always cherish.”

When the NFL partnered up with Team USA Football, they specifically asked for the Sharks to send representatives for the flag football team.  As the second leading tackler on a strong 6-2 Sharks team, Harrison, who is obviously known for her speed, was also an obvious choice. 

Flag football is different from tackle football, as players wear flags around their waist, and the object is to rip the flags off the player with the football.  Featuring only five players on offense and five on defense, the game is faster paced, played on only a 60-yard field with a first down only achieved by reaching the mid-point, meaning teams only have up to eight plays to score a touchdown or give up the ball. 

Having played flag football in the past, leading to her discovery of the Sharks program, Harrison was prepared for the experience and fared very well with the team. 

“I was placed on defense because of my speed and my ability to catch the quarterback,” said Harrison.  “I think I played the position very well.  I grabbed a lot of flags out there.  I was pretty ecstatic with my performance.”

Unfortunately, having to play three games a day caught up with Harrison and the team, who did make the medal round only to fall short to France, ending the experience in fourth place as Mexico took the gold and Canada snatched the silver. 

“We did really well on the first day, but as a tackle football team, I think the faster pace led us to be a little fatigued out there,” said Harrison.  “We weren’t really sure what to expect, but in two years, if we are chosen to compete again, I am confident that we will do even better.”

Harrison believes the team can medal in the future.  Of course, the ideas of medals has become synonymous with the recent Olympics coverage, of which Harrison also enjoyed shortly after returning home from Montreal. 

“The Olympics were a great event this year,” she said.  “Unfortunately, Team USA did not do as well as many thought they would in track.  I was saddened that I wasn’t there, but I was overjoyed to be on the outside looking in, knowing that I was able to compete on that level once.”

Now, Harrison is looking forward to even bigger things in 2009, as she goes on to her second season with the New York Sharks tackle football team. 

“I have always loved the game of football,” she said.  “I have a passion for the sport.  And next year, I hope to achieve a new level of success.  I want to try out for a receiver position with the team and help lead the Sharks to a championship.”

 

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