SARASOTA — Emily Harding can’t remember a time when she made it through an entire season injury-free.
The Sarasota High junior has suffered her fair share of ups and downs. But Harding admits that’s to be expected when you’re a three-sport athlete.
For the past three years, Harding has played volleyball and basketball and run track for the Sailors without so much as a break in between.
“It’s definitely taken a toll on my body,” Harding says.
Harding picked up basketball when she was 5 years old. After dabbling in soccer and softball, she wanted to try something new. She saw a group of people playing basketball and decided to give the sport a try. She quickly fell in love with it and has stuck with it ever since.
“It’s a sport that comes natural to me,” Harding says. “I’m so calm when I’m on the court. I love everything about it. It’s just so much fun. It’s my passion.”
Harding added volleyball and track to her résumé in middle school. Harding’s older sister, Kaitlin, played volleyball and pushed her toward the sport while her father Jim, a former high school runner, encouraged his daughter to try track.
Having grown up playing a variety of sports, Harding knew she would play multiple sports in high school.
Over the past three years, Harding, who maintains a 3.8 grade point average and is in the top 10 in her class, has learned how to adjust her schedule to accommodate multiple games and practices in addition to her course load.
“I’ve been forced to manage it my whole life,” Harding says. “It definitely comes easily to me.”
As a three-sport athlete, Harding spends the majority of the school year preparing for two sports at once. Harding typically misses preseason practices for both basketball and track.
This spring, Harding missed the first month of the track season after helping lead the Lady Sailors into the regional basketball tournament. She returned to the track Feb. 21 — the day before she was scheduled to compete in the 4x400-meter relay and the 800 sprint medley relay at the seventh annual Bobcat Relays in North Port.
Most recently, Harding set a new personal best to win the 800 (2:30.01) at the Manatee Hurricane Invitational.
“My coach always tells me that I have so much potential on the track, but I don’t take it as seriously as basketball,” she says. “Obviously, I can’t be the best in every sport. It would be a little hard to do that.”
But, with the help of her coaches, Harding has put herself in a position to excel in all three sports. Harding has lettered in each of her three sports since her freshman year.
Harding is on pace to have 12 varsity letters by the time she graduates next year, which would tie the school record.
“They definitely symbolize and stand for hard work and dedication,” Harding says of her letters. “There’s a sense of pride.
“It would be a great accomplishment to (tie) the school record,” Harding says. “Since my freshman year, I’ve been on all three varsity teams. So to know that I’m going to do this is awesome.”