Two former Kentucky track stars headed to Olympics


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

Keni Harrison and Javianne Oliver are Tokyo-bound.

Harrison (UK T&F, 2014-15), who was recently named to the 2021 UK Athletics Hall of Fame class, took home gold in the 100m hurdles in this week’s Olympic qualifiers at Hayward Field. Oliver (UK T&F, 2015-17) placed second in the 100m, etching her name on Team USA’s roster. 

Oliver, who qualified on Saturday, leapt to a quick start in the 100m final qualifier but was overtaken late by LSU’s Sha’Carri Richardson, the star of the event. 

“[The race] went by so fast,” Oliver said. “All I know is that I was running as fast as I could and it paid off.” She also noted that Richardson and Justin Gatlin, a five-time Olympic medalist are her training partners. She continued, “I’m just really, really grateful to even be here. It’s been a long journey to get here.”

Richardson finished with a gold medal-winning time of 10.86, while Oliver ended with a time of 10.99; earlier in the day, Oliver qualified for the final race with a time of 10.83.

“I think I did great,” Oliver said with a laugh. “I felt great and I felt like everything I’ve been trying to do happened today.”

Harrison on the other hand had been named a hall of famer and now a U.S. Olympic athlete, all in the span of five days. 

“I trained really hard and I just try to not put pressure on myself and thought of this as just another meet and to not put as much emphasis on the Olympic Trials,” Harrison said,” It just calmed me, I felt really relaxed through the rounds.”

Setting the world record (12.20 seconds) in 2016 the very event she earned gold in on Sunday, two weeks prior to her record-setting performance, she was snubbed from the 2016 Olympics in the event’s qualifiers. 

With a time of 12.47 seconds, Harrison won gold, ending the five year stretch of doubt and finally breathing a sigh of relief to be able to call herself an Olympian. 

“It came around pretty quick,” Harrison said about waiting five years for another opportunity. “Despite COVID happening last year, I would say trails came and I was glad I was ready for the moment.”

Kentucky isn’t finished with just those two, as today (Monday), two more Wildcats will compete in finals events – redshirt freshman Keaton Daniel in the pole vault and Ethan Shalaway (class of 2018) in the javelin throw.  

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are set to begin on July 23 until August 8th after a year’s delay due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 

“I’m still trying to soak it in,” Oliver said following her event.