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Anna Harmon finishes second in cross country championship

Anna Harmon hoists the team runner-up trophy for the NJCAA National Division II Women’s Cross Country Championship while surrounded by her Mesa Community College teammates Nov. 12, 2022, in Tallahassee. Harmon also finished second in the race. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

Editor’s note: This story appeared in the Nov. 30, 2022, issue of The Seminole Tribune.

TALLAHASSEE — The Seminole Tribe’s Anna Harmon admits she sometimes gets anxious while running cross country races, especially on unfamiliar courses.

Tallahassee is nearly 2,000 miles away from her college in Arizona, so it seemed likely Harmon would be uneasy running at Apalachee Regional Park. Instead, she said she felt right at home because it’s the land of her ancestors.

“It felt amazing as a tribal member especially because I felt really great and comfortable coming here. It felt like I was on my home turf, that I was coming home,” Harmon said.

“I told her, ‘this is your land, this is where you’re from, so you should do well,” said Harmon’s mother, Donna, who is a tribal member and competitive runner.

The combination of that connection to the soil beneath her running shoes and the emphatic vocal support from family helped Harmon as the Mesa Community College sophomore finished in second place out of more than 200 runners in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II Women’s Cross Country Championship on Nov. 12.

Anna Harmon, center, and a couple of her Mesa Community College teammates are amid the pack of runners at the start of the race Nov. 12, 2022. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

Her time was a personal best (PR) 18:44 on the scenic 5,000-meter course that weaved its way through woods and long stretches of open pasture flanked by sprawling oak trees.

Harmon’s finish was 22 seconds behind champion Hayley Burns (Northern Cheyenne) from Coconino Community College, of Arizona, giving Indian Country a 1-2 finish. Harmon finished a whopping 30 seconds ahead of the third place finisher.

In the team race, Harmon led Mesa to a runner-up finish, just one point behind champion Lansing Community College of Michigan. Twenty-eight teams were in the field.

Harmon said when she passed by throngs of spectators during the race she heard her family cheering for her. In addition to her mom, the contingent included her sister, Jessi; brother Eli; great-uncle, Andrew J. Bowers Jr.; and cousin, Ashlee Gopher.

“That support was so nice. I heard them. It made me really happy that they wanted to come see me,” Harmon said.

Anna Harmon (#667) competes on the course at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

Harmon didn’t see many runners in front of her; she was in the top five throughout the race and surged past a few to capture second place.

“It wasn’t a shocker,” Harmon said. “I’ve been really working hard in practice. I ran a mile PR in practice the other day; I ran a 5:16 and I’ve never run that fast in my life. I figured if I could run that in practice I could do it in a race.”

“Super ecstatic,” said Mesa coach Daniel Pescador. “Her goal was nothing less than top three. She just raced to perfection. She just started moving and she never backed off. I’m super proud of her.”

Harmon’s performance should help open more doors for her as she seeks another college now that she’s nearing the end of her two years at Mesa.

Ironically, the Apalachee course is the home course of Florida State University’s cross country program. FSU just happens to be at the top of Harmon’s wish list.

Anna Harmon nears the finish line at the NJCAA Division II Women’s Cross Country Championship on Nov. 12, 2022, in Tallahassee. She finished in second place out of more than 200 runners. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

“I would love to run for [FSU]. I would love to be around my family. I would love to be a Seminole in more than one way,” Harmon said.

Harmon’s running talents stretch back to her youth when she would run – and sometimes win – 5Ks while attending her mom’s half-marathons. Despite that early success, when she started running at Flagstaff High School in Arizona as a sophomore her focus was initially on sprint distances. Long distance was a distant thought for her until the cross country coach suggested she give it a shot.

“As a junior, I started out running a 24 minute 5K, then I finished the season with a 19:47 PR,” Harmon said. “I thought, wow, this is something I could be good at.”

Anna Harmon crosses the finish line in second place at the NJCAA National Division II Women’s Cross Country Championship on Nov. 12, 2022, in Tallahassee. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

Not only is cross country something Harmon has become good at, but it also benefits her in other areas.

“I’ve really loved to learn running because it’s made me feel so great about myself,” she said.

Running has also helped her carve her own niche in her family. Eli is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy who is in the process of moving to the Panhandle where he’ll be stationed at Elgin Air Force Base. Another brother, Levi, graduated from the Virginia Military Institute. He is currently serving overseas in the U.S. Army. Jessi is in JROTC at Northern Arizona University near the family’s home in Flagstaff. She will be joining the U.S. Army.

“It’s difficult being the youngest in a family when everyone is super successful. It just makes me want to be the best version of myself,” Harmon said.

Anna Harmon raises her arms after finishing the race. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

So far, Harmon hasn’t had any military inclinations; she said she’s majoring in business with hopes to someday own a bakery.

She said her second place finish was a pinnacle so far in her cross country career, but not the pinnacle.

“I’m one of those people who if I do something, I want to do [it] better every time; I want to get progressively better,” she said.

Next up for Harmon is Mesa’s track and field season, which starts in January.

With her Mesa Community College teammates behind her, Anna Harmon receives the team runner-up trophy. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Anna Harmon, second from left, and the other top finishers of the NJCAA National Division II Women’s Cross Country Championship take the podium Nov. 12, 2022, in Tallahassee. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Champion Hayley Burns, left, from Coconino Community College in Arizona, and runner-up Anna Harmon from Mesa Community Collge, also in Arizona, hold their prizes at the awards ceremony. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
From left to right are Ashlee Gopher, Andrew J. Bowers Jr., Anna Harmon (holding the team trophy), Donna Harmon, Eli Harmon and Jessi Harmon. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at