Garner Cleveland: Sports

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

Keni Harrison never knows how fast she’s running in her 60-meter hurdle race.

The Clayton High School graduate was surprised on Saturday when she saw her winning time in the McCravy Memorial Meet in Lexington, Ky. Her 7.96-second dash over the five hurdles ties her for the fastest time in the world this indoor season.

“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.”

It gradually dawned on her how fast she had gone.

“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 ACC 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 previously best time, 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, realized that her technique, although not bad entering college, still needed improvement.

Those improvements showed 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 after finishing among the top five in each event.

She transferred to Kentucky during the summer, where she’s majoring in community leadership development, 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.”