Harris is ‘a bull in a china shop’

Dan Cole

Experience and leadership are two traits most often seen as coinciding with one another. It is through unfamiliar ventures that mistakes are made, lessons are learned and leadership is bred. ISU swimmer Dani Harris is certainly no exception to this formula.

Harris, a junior at Iowa State (3-2), has stood out in each of her first three seasons as a Cyclone, earning more than 35 wins and 60 top-three finishes during that span. Her strong performance has earned her several awards, including Most Valuable Swimmer (2010-11) and Iowa State Newcomer of the Year (2009-10).

“She’s just a fierce competitor,” said head coach Duane Sorenson. “When she puts her mind to something, there’s no stopping her. She’s a very good leader by example.”

Harris has seen continued success this season, currently holding team-highs in 100-meter backstroke, 200-meter backstroke and 200-meter individual medley.

“She’s always been a racer,” said assistant coach Kelly Nordell. “She’s like a bull in a china shop. She just will not be stopped.”

Harris’s time at Iowa State has also allowed her to grow as both an athlete and a person.

“I’ve definitely learned to be really tough,” Harris said. “I’ve faced a lot of adversity being here, but there’s definitely always a silver lining. I’ve always come out of it stronger, and I have my coaches and teammates to thank for that.”

Harris’ teammate and roommate, junior Tiana Wollin, has had the opportunity to witness this growth first-hand.

“We’ve gotten a lot closer over the past two years,” Wollin said. “It’s always helpful to have a roommate who’s on the team because you can talk to each other, you know what everyone’s going through, and there’s always someone there.”

Harris was a four-year letterwinner at Valley High School in addition to being an integral part of a four-time state championship team.

“We knew we had a pretty special person coming in,” Sorenson said.

Harris’ high school accolades also include seven individual state championships, four-time All-America honors, and a slew of state and national records.

“High school was definitely a lot of fun,” Harris said. “I definitely grew as an athlete then and learned that I really wanted to do this.”

Nordell said she has been coaching Harris from a young age and has very much enjoyed watching her development.

“It’s been nice to watch her grow and certainly become one of the best in the Big 12 in her events,” Nordell said.

“She’s a great coach,” Harris said. “She’s always gotten me to where I need to be. I have a lot to thank her for.”

Harris is a student in Iowa State’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communication and was a member of the Academic All-Big 12 first team in 2010-11. She said she loves design and writing and is focusing on “visual communications and photojournalism.”

Sorenson said the work in the classroom has definitely translated to the pool.

“She’s a very intelligent young woman who works hard in the classroom just like she does in the swimming pool,” Sorenson said. “She’s a very driven person and wants to excel in everything that she does.”

Harris and the Cyclones return to the pool this weekend for road meets at Nebraska-Omaha on Friday and Nebraska on Saturday.