By Alex Byington

Killeen Daily Herald

About a week ago, Silvester Harrison was all set to call Lawrence, Kan. his new home.

But after speaking it over with his parents, and hearing their concerns of having their oldest son more than 11 hours away, the Ellison senior distance runner made an about face.

"My parents talked to me about (my college choice) and that night I thought real hard about it and that's when I came to the decision to go to Baylor," Harrison said.

Changing his mind the night before National Signing Day, Harrison officially signed his National Letter of Intent to run track at Baylor during a ceremony Thursday in the Ellison auditorium.

Seeing his eldest son sign was especially rewarding for Harrison's father.

"It's just incredible. We've been working so hard for this day, I don't know what to say," Silvester Harrison Jr. said. "It means a lot because I did not go to college, and that was the No. 1 thing I wanted my children to do - it means a lot to me that they did continue their education."

Harrison chose Baylor over Kansas for its close proximity to family in Killeen and its place as one of the nation's more respected academic institution.

"That was basically the deciding factor. Kansas has good academics but Baylor has great academics," said Harrison, who is currently ranked No. 2 in his senior class after finishing No. 1 a year ago. "Being a salutatorian for now, I'd much rather have a great college resume and run close to home where my parents can see me more often than going 11 hours away to get a pretty good education."

A five-time regional qualifier in the 1,600 (2) and 3,200 (3), Harrison said he could compete in any of the distance events ranging from the 1,500- to the 10,000-meter run.

Harrison becomes the second Ellison athlete to sign a Division I track scholarship this year, joining middle distance runner Hector Hernandez to Texas A&M last week on National Signing Day, and sixth since 2009, following in the footsteps of hurdler Steven White (2009, North Texas), sprinters Prezel Hardy Jr. and Michael Bryan (2010, Texas A&M), Lady Eagles hurdler Maya Williamson (2011, Memphis) and Hernandez.

"It's really something you don't see too often, maybe because Ellison has a great track legacy," Harrison said.

At Baylor, Harrison will be joined by close friend and fellow area distance runner Derwin Graham of Copperas Cove, who is competing in his freshman year with the Bears.

"I just felt like it would be more fortuitous to go to Waco," Harrison said. "It just felt like a close family there and that was the kind of college experience I wanted."

Winning his first District 12-5A cross country championship in October, Harrison helped pace the Eagles to do the same with a gold-medal winning time of 16:15.37.

Now that his college choice is finalized, Harrison is just focused on having similar success in his final track season at Ellison, seeking his first trip to the Class 5A state meet after coming up short the past two seasons.

"It's a big relief and now I can focus on track, nothing's in the back of my mind about where I'm going to go," Harrison said.

"Now I can slow everything down and focus on this track season and hopefully competing well in cross country as a Bear."

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