South Carolina’s Nyck Harbor skipping Olympic trials. Here’s what we know

Nyck Harbor is going back into football mode.

Even though the South Carolina two-sport athlete and track star posted a qualifying time for U.S. Olympic Trials in the 200-meter dash, a school spokesman confirmed that Harbor will not be attending the trials this weekend in Eugene, Oregon, to compete for a chance to represent Team USA in Paris.

That means rest and recovery ... and a clear schedule for football activities.

Steve Fink, a USC spokesman, told The State on Tuesday that Harbor and Tim Hall, South Carolina’s track and field head coach, came to a mutual decision for Harbor to forgo the trials and a chance to represent his country in the 2024 Olympics in Paris because his chances of making the team were a “long shot.”

The news was first reported earlier Monday by the Post and Courier.

“He and Coach Hall sat down and looked at his times compared to what other guys run,” Fink said Tuesday. “That’s the NCAA competitors he ran against two weeks ago (at the national championships), but also pro athletes. The thought was that, best case, he makes the semifinals. ... The chance of him making finals and making the team were a long shot. That was going to be very difficult.”

Harbor, 18, who transitioned directly from his freshman football season last fall into indoor and then outdoor track and field season, will now get a chance to rest up ahead of his sophomore season with the Gamecocks.

“This was to look out for his best interest and to let him rest up and recover ahead of football season,” Fink said of Harbor. “He’s been at it for a while.”

South Carolina’s Nyck Harbor ran in the 60m and 200m races with the USC track team on Saturday.
South Carolina’s Nyck Harbor ran in the 60m and 200m races with the USC track team on Saturday.

Change of plans

Harbor will now be focused exclusively on football heading into 2024 fall camp with Shane Beamer and the Gamecocks. Had he qualified for the Olympic team, Harbor would’ve been in line to miss roughly two weeks of USC’s month-long fall camp schedule heading into the season (a critical fourth year for Beamer).

Harbor, a former five-star recruit who played defensive end and tight end in high school, plays wide receiver for South Carolina. He appeared in all 12 games last year, started the last five and caught 12 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown.

Beamer said last month at a Gamecock Club event he was “hoping” Harbor qualified for the Olympics, which run July 26 through Aug. 11, even though it would’ve conflicted with the football team’s fall camp starting Aug. 2.

“It wouldn’t be great from a football standpoint because of the amount of time that he would miss football,” Beamer said May 14, laughing. “But he and I have talked about it. We met in my office at the end of spring practice and I told him, ‘Man if you could get chance to run in the Olympics, that would be so cool.’ ”

Harbor (6-foot-5, 242) automatically qualified for the Olympic trials when he ran the 200-meter dash in a personal best 20.20 seconds at the NCAA East Regional on May 24. The automatic qualifying time for the trials is 20.30 seconds, according to USA Track & Field.

But Harbor’s PR only earned him an 8th place finish at the east regionals, and his 200-meter time in the NCAA championships two weeks ago (20.32 seconds) landed him in 10th place.

According to USA Track & Field, there are 12 athletes who qualified for the 200-meter with a time under 20.20 seconds and seven who qualified with a time under 20 seconds (led by longtime pro Noah Lyles’ field-best 19.47 seconds).

Only three qualifiers from the Olympic trials advance to represent Team USA in Paris (Lyles, Kenny Bednarek and Erryion Knighton ran for the U.S. in the men’s 200-meter in Tokyo last Olympics), setting up a tough path for Harbor to advance in his true shot at Olympic qualifying.

Harbor, who turns 19 years old on July 5, will be 22 years old and likely done with his college career as a South Carolina track athlete or football player (or both) by the time the next Olympics rolls around. The 2028 Olympics (the first held on American soil since Atlanta in 1996) will be held in Los Angeles from July 14–30.