Track and Field

Clayton native Keni Harrison turns in world-class 60-meter hurdle time

cbest@newsobserver.comJanuary 27, 2014 

Keni Harrison never can tell exactly how fast she’s going in a 60-meter hurdle race.

“Even as long as I’ve been running it, it’s still hard to tell,” the Clayton High School graduate said via phone. “It just goes by so fast that you don’t know what happened.”

She had no idea of her time Saturday either running for the University of Kentucky in the McCravy Memorial Meet in Lexington, Ky.

When she saw her winning time on the scoreboard she was more than pleased. When she found out the 7.96 seconds it took her to clear the course of five hurdles tied for the best in the world this indoor season.

“It makes you kind of speechless when you think about it that way,” Harrison said. “It’s great that I have the potential to do those kinds of things in the future as I get better.”

Harrison, a junior at Kentucky, won four NCHSAA state hurdle championships at Clayton. She transferred into the Wildcats’ track and field program last summer from Clemson where she earned six Atlantic Coast Conference championships in individual events or relays.

Her hurdle run (the world record of 7.68 was set in 2008 by Sweden’s Susanna Kallur) cut nearly two-tenths of a second off of her best time previously: an 8.09 in the Kentucky Track and Field Invitational on Jan. 18.

“I’ve just improved my training so much in the past year,” Harrison said. “It’s a little bit of everything: better on-track training, more of the proper diet: meats, vegetables, fruit and no so much fast food.”

Harrison, 21, has realized more and more that her technique, although not bad entering college, still needed improvement. It’s those gains that have made the biggest difference.

Those improvements started to really show up during the 2013 outdoor season.

Harrison was the MVP at the ACC Outdoor Championships last season and was a first-team All-American outdoors in the 100 hurdles, 400 hurdles and 400 relay in 2013. Harrison, 21, finished in the top five at the NCAA Championships in all three of those events last year. She transferred to Kentucky, where she’s majoring in community leadership development, during the summer, joining three other elite hurdlers who made the switch to the Wildcats’ track program when assistant coach Tim Hall moved from the staff at Clemson to the UK program led by Edrick Floreal.

The switch has been pretty smooth for Harrison.

“Things are going pretty well,” she said. “The only major difference is that it can get pretty cold here. The classroom work is going really well. On the track, I’m faster than I’ve ever been.”

Best: 919-524-8895; Twitter: @dclaybest

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