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A triathlete with medicine on her mind

Taylor Harp is a biochemistry major in the Freshman Science Honors Program. (USC Photo/Lillian Insalata)

Taylor Harp was only 9 years old when she became a triathlete. The incoming USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences freshman from Highlands Ranch, Colo., got her first taste of triathlons when a friend convinced her to compete in an IronKids event.

It didn’t go well.

“I really didn’t know what I was getting into,” she recalled. “I ended up crying, hating it. I was so upset when I finished.”

But those feelings pushed Harp to want to improve. She joined a swim team and began competing in local children’s triathlons. Three years later, she was recruited by a national high-performance triathlon team based in Parker, Colo. For the past five years, she has traveled to Washington and Virginia to compete. In fact, USC’s triathlon team was a major factor in Harp’s decision to apply.

“USC has one of the biggest collegiate triathlon teams — about 150 people,” she said. “That was something that attracted me.”

In addition to her athletic accomplishments, Harp has a number of passions. A great sense of satisfaction, she said, came from opening the nonprofit “Coffee for a Cause” shop at her high school.

Hart renovated a former coffee shop, recruited students as volunteer baristas, and donated all proceeds to classmates to buy school lunches or participate on sports teams. Her efforts paid off when Coffee for a Cause funds were used to buy a phone and minutes for a homeless student so that employers could contact him.

“That was probably one of my proudest moments — knowing that we helped him get a job so that he could get back on his feet and graduate,” Harp said.

A premed student, Harp has already tested herself as a member of the Colorado Rescue Patrol, which searches for missing hikers in the wilderness.

“I’ve always wanted to go into medicine,” Harp said. “You need to be able to handle high-stress situations while keeping your composure.”

As a biochemistry major in the Freshman Science Honors Program, Harp is well-positioned to put her academic and hands-on knowledge into practice at medical school, where she hopes to be in four years. She’s already assisted a professor and graduate student at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus with their cancer research. (Harp’s findings will be included in the graduate student’s published thesis.)

Harp plans to explore various fields pertaining to medicine at USC, including nonprofit management, global economics and foreign policy, and is considering adding Spanish as a second major. But right now, she’s simply looking forward to getting started.

“When I first step onto campus I might be a little nervous,” she admitted, “but for now it’s total excitement.”

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