Kendra Harrison set a world record in 2016 and wants to do the same again this year.
Kendra Harrison is not one to brag on herself.
The former University of Kentucky star hurdler — who is a volunteer coach with the Wildcats this season — set the world’s record in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2016 London Muller Anniversary Games with a time of 12.20 seconds to break a record that had been held since 1988.
This season she won her first 60-meter indoor hurdles national title in 7.81 seconds. She had opened her season at the Rod McCravy Invitational in Lexington with a personal best of 7.75 seconds — the world’s ninth fastest time since 2012. She ran a 7.76 at the IAAF Indoor in February and Harrison, 24, won the 100-meter hurdles at the Texas Invitational April 15 in 12.54 seconds and came back to also win the 200 in 22.85 seconds.
“I am pretty pleased with how it is going,” said Harrison. “I have been training really hard. I have great people to practice with from my team (Kentucky). They push me every day. It’s nice to have them there getting me ready just like I am trying to get them ready. We have a lot of great talent on our team this year that is going to put Kentucky track on the map.”
Harrison’s world record already did that even though she had her biggest disappointment when she ran a puzzling sixth in the Olympic Trials and did not get to compete in the 2016 Olympics despite being the favorite in her event.
She says UK coach Edrick Floreal told her every time she lines up to compete this year it is her Olympic final.
“I missed that opportunity (to be in the Olympics). Now I just have to work for another chance, and hopefully there will be a few more,” Harrison said.
She set the world record after her Olympic Trials disappointment and that time motivates her now.
“It motivates me because I knew how much work I put in and then I saw the hard work pay off,” Harrison said. “To go from not making the Olympic team to getting the world’s record … you could see how far you had come.”
So how do you top a world record this year?
“I always like to run a personal best each year and that would be a world record again,” she laughed and said. “I also want to get that first world championship medal.”
Harrison was a two-time state championship high school hurdler in North Carolina and was named Gatorade North Carolina Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year in 2011. As a freshman at Clemson in 2012, she won the 400-meter hurdles at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship and competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials. In 2013 she was fifth in the 100 hurdles and fourth in the 400 hurdles at the NCAA championships.
She transferred to Kentucky after the 2013 season along with sprinter Dezera Bryant and won both the 100 and 400 hurdles at the 2014 SEC championships — the first athlete to win both events since 1999. In 2015 she won both the indoor and outdoor NCAA championships.
Because she’s been around UK so long, she says current team members are not intimidated by her success.
“They have seen my process and where I started from,” Harrison said. “If I had just walked in here and started coaching, maybe my success would have made them nervous but I talk to them just like one of my friends. We push each other. Because I am a volunteer coach, I can’t really interact with them off the track, but I do interact for a couple of hours daily at practice.”
Kentucky will host the NCAA East Preliminary Championships in late May. Harrison says that is a “huge deal” for the Kentucky program because most universities don’t host meets like that.
“This is where you have athletes compete to get to nationals. The best in the region come to Kentucky to compete,” Harrison said. “It’s great for our recruiting, great for our community. It will also hopefully be great for athletes to get to compete at home.”