Keni Harrison: NCAA champion, world record holder, Olympian


Keni Harrison finishes first in the 100m hurdles at the 2021 Olympic Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, OR on Sunday June 20, 2021.

Barkley Truax

“My summer is going great,” Former Kentucky Wildcat Keni Harrison said. “I think everything is going as planned.”

You can say that again. 

So far this summer, Harrison has added to her long list of accolades when it was announced that she would join the 2021 UK Athletics Hall of Fame class. Six days later, she placed the cherry on top when she won first place at the Olympic Trails in the 100m hurdles.

“I’ve been training for the last five years for the moment to make my first Olympic team and it finally happened,” she said. “I’m really pleased with how everything is going headed into Tokyo.”

Harrison was the No. 1 ranked 100m hurdler in the world heading into the 2016 Olympic Trails. Early in the event she would hit a hurdle and never recovered, finishing eighth and keeping her out of the Games in Rio. Three weeks later, she set the world record in the event at 12.20 seconds at the London Müller Anniversary Games, proving she was still one of the worlds best. 

“Missing the Team in 2016 was heartbreaking,” Harrison said. “The hardest part is getting through trials … What fueled me the last few years was the disappointment that got me to train hard and not to give up.”

Since failing to reach Rio, Harrison has placed fourth at the World Championships (2017), won the World Indoor Championship and NACAC Championship, second place at the IAAF Continental Cup (all three in 2018) and placed second at the World Championships (2019).

“Realizing the better I do at World’s, the more it’s going to help me in the future,” she said. “Winning those titles have prepared me for now.”

Her laundry list of accolades also includes a National Track Athlete of the Year honor as a senior, winning the NCAA championship in the indoor 60m hurdles and outdoor 100m hurdles, being a 15-time All-American at Kentucky and is a five-time SEC gold medalist; to name a few.

“It’s crazy that I had some of those accolades before I was an Olympian,” Harrison said with a laugh. “Getting records is the hard part and the fact that I did that first before making my first Olympic team is kind of crazy. It’s something I knew I could do before I made it.”

It was announced Thursday that the Olympics will be held with no fans in the stands due to rising numbers of COVID-19 in Tokyo. Harrison says that despite having no spectators, lining up with the best hurdlers in the world will bring out enough of her competitive edge.

When she’s running, she’s not worried about who’s in the stands but rather competing to the best of her ability.

Harrison isn’t the only Wildcat to make the Olympics in Track & Field this year as former stars Sydney McLaughlin, Javianne Oliver, Daniel Roberts all qualified for Team USA while current Wildcats Dwight St. Hillaire and Megan Moss qualified for Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas, respectively. 

“It shows that the program is fire,” Harrison said about Kentucky’s Track & Field program’s presence in Tokyo. “For all of us to make the Olympic team … it shows the amount of talent that we had. The fact that we all went to Kentucky is awesome because we can continue to keep Kentucky on the map.”

We are just over two weeks until the 2020 Olympics take place on July 23 and Harrison is ready to leave her all on the track as she always does. 

“Heading into Tokyo, my mindset is that I’m just really excited,” Harrison said. “I’m confident in myself and ready to go and do my best.”