Ex-Cats

Keni Harrison delivers world-leading performance at Drake Relays

Kendra Harrison, center, races to the finish line ahead of Kristi Castlin, left, and Dawn Harper-Nelson, right, while winning the women's special 100-meter hurdles at the Drake Relays athletics meet, Saturday, April 29, 2017, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Kendra Harrison, center, races to the finish line ahead of Kristi Castlin, left, and Dawn Harper-Nelson, right, while winning the women's special 100-meter hurdles at the Drake Relays athletics meet, Saturday, April 29, 2017, in Des Moines, Iowa. AP

Former University of Kentucky hurdler Keni Harrison responded to the disappointment of not making the 2016 U.S. Olympic team by breaking a world record a few weeks later.

Now she wants to prove that was no fluke, and she’s off to some start.

Harrison cruised to victory in the women’s 100-meter hurdles Saturday at the Drake Relays. She won in a world-leading 12.56 seconds despite rain, cold and wind and a field featuring six other hurdlers ranked in the world’s top 10.

Harrison ran a 12.54 this year, but that was wind-aided.

“My coach just told me ‘You know, you missed the Olympic finals. So treat each race this year as an Olympic final. So I just want to come out and really see how far I can go and prove to myself and everyone else that I can run in big meets,” Harrison said.

Jasmin Stowers of the U.S. was second in 12.76. Dawn Harper-Nelson, an American who won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and silver four years later, was third in 12.79.

Harrison finished sixth with a trip to the Rio Games on the line last year. But last July she broke a record that stood for 28 years, running a 12.20 in a Diamond League event in London.

The track world has been watching Harrison since. On her agenda for 2017 is a return to London, site of this year’s world championships, and a shot at the world title that eluded her in Rio.

“It builds my confidence. I just tell myself ‘You’re the world record holder. You’re really blessed in this event,’” Harrison said. “That’s my number one goal, to go get gold in London.”

Drake Relays Athletics
Kendra Harrison reacts to fans after winning the women's special 100-meter hurdles at the Drake Relays athletics meet, Saturday, April 29, 2017, in Des Moines, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall AP

Because of the miserable conditions — temperatures were in the low 40s with strong gusts and rain that at times fell sideways — just a single meet record fell in the elite races.

That mark went to Jamaica’s Omar McLeod, who ran a Drake-best 13.04 to win the men’s 110 hurdles.

“It’s cold. But once you come out here and see the crowd … it takes away from that,” McLeod said.

In the women’s 400 hurdles, Rio Olympics bronze medalist Ashley Spencer stumbled into the fifth hurdle after her hip locked. Spencer fell and failed to finish, and fellow American Georganne Moline won in a world-leading 54.66.

Spencer said she lost feeling in her feet and hands after 150 meters, just before taking her tumble.

“I was running on a whim and a prayer,” Spencer said.

Drake Relays Athletics (3)
Kendra Harrison, right, clears the final hurdle ahead of Kristi Castlin, left, while winning the women's special 100-meter hurdles at the Drake Relays athletics meet, Saturday, April 29, 2017, in Des Moines, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall AP

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