Photos By Nolan P. Schmidt
On paper, there is little in common between Adrian Harris and Josh Knutson. Harris is from St. Petersburg, Fla. while Knutson is from small-town Aurelia, North Dakota. The Florida product comes from a city of nearly 300,000 people. Count the surrounding Tampa area and there are over 500,000 people. On the flipside, Knutson’s hometown has no population data registered. The town opted not to take the United States Census.
Two different backgrounds, two different upbringings and two different paths to North Dakota State. Knutson originally committed to play football and Harris had never been to North Dakota before his official visit. Despite all of that, the pair have become two of the best friends the track & field program has.
Part of that is their similarity in events. Harris and Knutson compete in sprinting events as well as NDSU’s 4x400m really team. That team just recently captured a Summit League indoor championship. The Bison men won its fifth Summit League indoor title in six years too.
Harris and Knutson talked about their friendship, battling through injuries together and more.
Adrian Harris: Being on the track team helped expose me to different teammates and people. I had a few upperclassmen take me under their wings, and I was able to meet him and build a bond with him, which is amazing. He’s a great leader to me and a great friend. I think mainly being in sports helped that because when you’re a part of the track team, we have so many teammates around us. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to make friends, especially when you’re all in the same friend group.
Josh Knutson: Last year during practice, we would both always be joking around, but we also take our sport really seriously and we both have the same goals. We both want to go get it every practice and we want to get better. We want to joke around and have fun with this too.
AH: I think it helps a lot when you have someone just as competitive as you. Someone who not only wants to do well, but he wants to see other people do well. He wants to see me do well every day we come in to compete. As he said we’re able to have fun with it. Even though this is our job, we can joke around and we know when it gets serious. Having him and others like that to push each other and know that we are here for a goal and we want to meet that goal. It’s amazing.
JK: We definitely push one another which brings us closer. Even before races, we look at each other and we think ‘let’s go right now.’
Difference In Background
AH: We joke about that all the time. I’ll make fun of his city or he has made fun of mine, but it is playful. Luckily, he was able to come down to Florida for Christmas break. I actually was able to show him around and show my city. You could tell that everything was a lot different for him. Of course, he’s been there, he has family in Tampa, but to show him around my city and where I grew up. Being able to take him back to my old high school and just show him how different it is from up here.
Hopefully, I’m able to go to his town some time and experience that but him coming down definitely brought us close too. It’s just amazing having him as a teammate and I consider him family. Being from different backgrounds, we are from different cities, but I don’t think of it that way. I don’t ever think about that, but it is crazy to see that people from pretty much opposite sides of the nation can come together and become so close.
JK: It’s crazy to think about it. I grew up in a small town and
he grew up in a big city. Not many people like that are coming together so easily and I do consider him family too. How our friendship has grown over the last year and a half now, it’s crazy to think how it all worked out this way.
JK: One of the first questions I asked him was his name and where he was from? When he said he was from Florida, I asked him if he was crazy. We’ve had that conversation quite a few times but I’m glad he came up here and experienced this coldness. Now when he goes back home, everyone thinks he is crazy. When we hung out in Florida during Christmas break, everyone had coats on and it was 50 degrees. Adrian was wearing a tank top and everyone was giving him weird looks.
AH: To this day, my roommates always tell me I’m crazy and that they didn’t know what I was thinking coming here. I don’t regret
it at all. My mindset was that I’m just going to take the visit just to experience North Dakota. I had read about it in history books but had never been there. I came and I fell in love immediately and I’m so thankful I chose here.
JK: I kind of knew what it took to be up there with the best. With a whole year of training too, I knew how much you can get worn down from a physical perspective. I would just be talking to him about that and pushing him. I also said that some days you need to take a step back and not go all out. We always joke about ice baths, but it is all about that extra work behind the scenes that leads to success. When he came in as a freshman, you could tell he wanted to succeed as much as us. I knew I wanted to do whatever to help him get acclimated.
AH: I honestly think having upperclassmen like him on the team was very helpful and humbling. In my junior and senior years of high school, I was looked up to and everyone in school and on the team always looked up to me. When I came in here, I knew I was not as experienced as some of my teammates. I had never run indoors before. So having people who have been through this and gone through this and done this and know what it takes to succeed is important. They can push me every day and I try to learn something from them each day. I know I can get better each and every day in this because I’m not perfect. I love having a leader like him that can push me and help me get better every day.
AH: That’s a really good question…
JK: I noticed that our faith in God builds our morale and values and stuff. We go to FCA and we both want to improve in that area too. I feel like that is one of those outside elements that brings us together other than just track.
AH: I think it is that caring trait. I kind of relate to that being that I’m more of a family person and I like putting others first and helping out as much as I can. I know he’s like that too so that kind of made us click. He is very caring of me and helpful. Anything I need or anything he needs, we’re there.
On the funny side, this one really loves Mountain Dew. I don’t drink a lot of soda but I think Mountain Dew would be my go- to if I did. So I think that brought us close as well, just the love of Mountain Dew.
JK: He’s one of the most caring guys I know. That’s what brought us together too. He texts me once and a while and I text him, but it’s not one-sided because we both want to be a part of each other’s lives. We’re a family here and we want to build this bond because we got two more years with each other. It’s really important to have people who genuinely care about you and want to push you to be better. Not just caring about you on the track, but outside of track too.
AH: That is another great thing about being part of the Bison family. When it comes down to it, we get serious, we compete, we want to beat each other, but off the track, everyone here cares for you. It’s not fake either, everyone loves you. Just having people like that is amazing.
Sharing Accomplishments With One Another
JK: For us individually, we both got injured around the same time with the same injury. We both felt we were a little behind everyone because of that, but we worked hard together to get healthy. Then once we got healthy, we were back and it just made that moment at the conference meet even more special. Seeing the 4×400 doing good and seeing success in the 400, made me proud.
AH: To have your best friends have medals around their necks and winning as a team is amazing. We’ve been working since the end of August until now. To hold up that banner was pretty special because our hard work did pay off.
AH: As far as our relationship, I think we just continue to do the same thing. Don’t switch up our routine. I mean, we hang out a lot and we check in on each other a lot, right? We pretty much do everything together. I think as far as our relationship, we won’t change anything because it’s been working very well. As far as track for me, I’m still dealing with a nagging groin injury. Luckily, we have a few weeks off before outdoor so I’m going to get into rehab make sure I’m back.
JK: We spend a lot of time together, but it’s not too much. I’ve had injuries quite a bit, but right now I feel healthy. So staying healthy and I have 400 hurdles this season which I have not run in a while. Practicing for that will also be very important for me, individually.
Leaning On Each Other During Injury
JK: It’s very important that you have a person that reigns you in a bit. I got a knee injury right away and Adrian was adamant that I should sit out, but both of us are so competitive. We want to be on the track. We want to run. We realize when we shouldn’t run because it is a long season ahead of us. He constantly reminded me that the team didn’t need me right now, they needed me for conference. Having someone that is able to remind you of that and support you is big.
AH: This year was the first time in my life I had an injury that I had to miss competition for. I missed about two or three weeks where I didn’t run the 400 and it took a mental toll on me. I didn’t want to come back and look slower or that I lost a step. Having him and other people tell me not to rush that injury was so important. People who support you like that are very cool.
Changing Perspectives In A Diverse Environment
AH: When you’re exposed to a different amount of people from different areas, different places, you learn more. You’re able to understand people of different backgrounds. Obviously, we all know people, but not everyone is like you. I think just being a part of a family like this, not even looking at just track, is good to be around.
JK: Even if you do put the track part into it, we’re all different. We’re all built differently and it’s cool that we can all come together in that way. People are different in their own way, but we all can go do our jobs. No matter what, we’re going to put the work in and find a way to succeed.