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Bel Air senior Jake Harris blossoms into lacrosse standout after late start: ‘The player every coach gets excited to have’

Jacob “Jake” Harris is a Bel Air High School senior who is a latecomer to the sport of lacrosse, but a young man who loves the sport and is beginning to excel in it the same way he has excelled in the classroom.

The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Harris is no stranger to athletics. It’s just that, until recently, his best moments were in the pool or on the basketball or volleyball court.

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“I saw the lacrosse team in my sophomore year and my friends convinced me to try out, and I tried out and I love the sport,” Harris said. “I play [long-stick midfield] and a lot about that is ground balls, fighting for the ground ball and passing skills. So, I had to work my way up from the bottom, to a starting position.”

Earning a starting role for the Bobcats was not an easy task, but Harris put in the extra work to catch up to his more experienced teammates. He often stayed for about an hour after practice to improve his stick skills.

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The work ethic has become contagious for the Bobcats.

“This year people are sticking around with me after practice, so I’m trying to make the team better,” Harris said. “Just trying to create a competitive environment with the team, but also we’re a family, so we’re pretty close with each other.”

Bel Air's Jake Harris smiles at practice March 30 on the turf field at Bel AIr High School's Bobcat Stadium.
Bel Air's Jake Harris smiles at practice March 30 on the turf field at Bel AIr High School's Bobcat Stadium. (Matt Button / The Aegis)

The Bobcats are back playing after missing an entire 2020 season because of the COVID pandemic. Harris said the team’s roster includes only about 25 players because of the pandemic.

Harris has played just one full season of lacrosse, and he’s trying to improve his understanding of the game.

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“That’s what I’m trying to increase by the end of this season,” Harris said. “Certainly, I have the opportunity to play at a higher level, so I’m trying to put 100% work ethic into every practice and every game, just to make myself the best I can be.”

Coach Doug Testerman said Harris is setting the tone for the Bobcats.

“Jake is the player every coach gets excited to have on their team,” Testerman said. “His work ethic will be the barometer for my teams in the future.”

Harris thinks his experience with other sports has given him an edge.

“Swimming, with it being an individual sport, it definitely brought the work ethic that I brought to lacrosse. Staying after practices and going to Saturday practices by myself, to get in a couple extra laps. Every hour that you put in that other people don’t, that’s what puts you ahead of other people,” Harris said. “With volleyball, you need a good team in order to be successful, it can’t just be one player, because one player can’t guard the whole court, so it definitely brought in that team aspect. Work together in order for us to win games.”

Bel Air's Jake Harris carries the ball during practice March 30 on the turf field at Bel AIr High School's Bobcat Stadium.
Bel Air's Jake Harris carries the ball during practice March 30 on the turf field at Bel AIr High School's Bobcat Stadium. (Matt Button / The Aegis)

Harris also finds time for music away from the field. He’s been playing guitar since he was 7 and also plays the tenor saxophone. He played with the Harford Youth Jazz Ensemble for two years.

Harris mainly plays an electric guitar, but also has an acoustic guitar. “I always like to play rock, currently working on a few Van Halen songs,” he said. “It’s a great stress reliever, because I take all high classes in school.”

Harris, an Eagle Scout, had a 4.1 GPA as a junior that he boosted to 4.4 during the first semester of this senior year. He’d like to attend either the Air Force Academy or the Naval Academy. He has a nomination to Air Force and is waiting for one from Navy.

Harris plans to try and walk on for lacrosse at Air Force if he is accepted into the academy. If he goes the Naval Academy route, he wants to do offshore sailing instead of lacrosse.

At Air Force, Harris plans to study aeronautical engineering with plans for naval architecture and marine engineering at Navy. If he doesn’t earn acceptance to either academy, Harris plans to study computer and mechanical engineering at Loyola Maryland and play club lacrosse.

Harris, who is a lifeguard at Bel Air Athletic Club, has a younger brother, Gavin, who is a sophomore at Bel Air and member of the Bobcats’ junior varsity lacrosse team.

His support system at home has been a driving force.

“Lacrosse is a team effort that’s used in everything that you do because you’re not going to get to the top by yourself,” said Harris, who lives in Bel Air with his parents, Jim and Mary. “You definitely need to have a good support system and with lacrosse, we all support each other.”

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