For Fred Harvey, recruiting starts with friendship. Fortunately, he has a whole lot of friends.
There are the 400-plus friends on Facebook and Twitter, possibly more than that in the field of, well, track and field.
In 12 seasons at the helm of the Arizona track and field program, and with the help of associate head coach James Li, Harvey has made quite a few connections nationwide. Worldwide, too. He has a reputation as a prime talent evaluator and talent developer.
The fruits of his recruiting labor will be on full display at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, this week at the NCAA track and field championships. Eight UA athletes — four men and four women — are scheduled to compete.
One of them is Nnenya Hailey, exhibit A in Harvey’s recruiting reach. Hailey will compete in today’s 400-meter hurdles semifinal, in hopes of advancing to Friday’s final.
Hailey was at Clemson in 2012-13, her freshman year. Then, in January 2013, Tigers longtime head coach Lawrence Johnson resigned.
Soon after, Hailey pulled her hamstring before a meet, missed the rest of outdoor season, and decided to transfer.
Arizona was one option, another was Arkansas. The Razorbacks had an edge — their associate head coach, Chris Johnson, is Lawrence’s brother.
“It was scary,” Harvey said, laughing, “But her coach (Lawrence Johnson) told her, ‘I think you should go to Arizona.’”
That’s right — Johnson suggested Harvey’s program over his own brother’s.
“I guess it shows you the type of friends I have,” Harvey said. “It wasn’t about blood or brothers, it was about the best fit for that young lady.”
Added Hailey: “The coaches they (Tigers) were bringing in, I didn’t know if they would know what they were doing, so I decided if I’m serious about this track thing maybe I should go to a new school that has a known coach, and Coach Harvey is a really good track coach. That’s definitely one of the things that drew me here.”
Now, Hailey is a part of Arizona’s next wave of talent.
On the way out are seniors Lawi Lalang, Nick Ross, Julie Labonte and Shapri Romero. Ross (high jump) and Romero (200 and 400 meters) are looking for their first NCAA titles, Labonte (shot put) her second.
Lalang (1,500 and 5,000) is going for his, ahem, eighth and ninth titles.
On the way up: Hailey, along with redshirt freshmen throwers Aaron Castle (shot put) and Jordan Young (hammer throw).
Harvey calls it the “cool club”.
“It’s a real interesting dynamic,” Harvey said. “With Lawi, Nick, Julie and Shapri all coming in and this being their final show. But they’re the people that developed the base of where our program is today.
“I always like to call the best group of athletes as being a part of the ‘cool kids club’. So to have this young group with them now, when we start next season, we want them to lead the program and show everyone what it takes to get to this competition.”
For Young, Castle and Hailey, it’s their first NCAA outdoor title exposure. And that first experience, Harvey said, is the most important one.
“For lack of a better term,” Harvey said. “You could give them five scholarships and that wouldn’t be enough money to compensate for the experience that they’ll have. This meet is just so different than anything else, and if you never experience the intensity of it, the pageantry of it, it’s kind of overwhelming the first time.”
Young — who Harvey says is a “dark-horse contender” to do something special in Eugene — feels the nerves, but is mostly looking forward to aligning himself with the nation’s top talent.
“It’s great just getting to experience it as a freshman,” said Young, an Ontario native who came in third place at the Pac-12 Championships. “I have three more years ahead of me where, hopefully, I can make it and not be as nervous next time around, a little more comfortable, and older, and stronger.”
It’s all a part of Harvey’s plan — recruit, develop, reload.
This week, his plan for his last days with those seniors is simple.
“You don’t get an opportunity, in as many years as I’ve been coaching, to get that level of athletes, that many of them, on one team,” he said.
“So, I’m gonna live it, and I’m gonna love it.”