Series14 Mar 2016

First impressions – Keni Harrison


Keni Harrison in the 100m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015 (© Getty Images)

Keni Harrison, winner of IAAF World Indoor Tour 60m hurdles races in Karlsruhe and Glasgow, has enjoyed a blistering start to 2016.

The US hurdler will compete at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016 later this week but took time out from her busy schedule to offer an insight into her world both on and off the track.

First sport

From third grade I did the sport of gymnastics. I never competed on the travelling team but I took classes to be more competitive. It helped my track because it helped me to be able to manoeuvre my own bodyweight and helped my strength.

First competition

I remember competing at regional champs in my sophomore year at high school. I remember one of my main rivals hit several hurdles and I was able to win the race. Back then, I had a few confidence issues so I thought I only won the race because the other girl made some mistakes. It was only when my coach put it in perspective and said no other athlete out there was running the times I was that I really started to believe in myself. 

First coach

When I started to want to take track more seriously my older sister found a coach by the name of Keith McGill online. He had coached Wayne Davis (the 2007 world youth champion who now represents Trinidad and Tobago) and he was the coach who taught me how to three-step.

First overseas competition

It was the Monaco Diamond League meet last year. It helped that I had both my coach (Edrick Floreal) and my best friend Dezerea Bryant (the 2015 NCAA 200m champion) there with me. It put me at ease.

I was new (to the European circuit) so I didn’t feel a lot pressure on me and I managed to finish second, which even my agent was surprised with. I remember Monaco was just a really nice place to travel to.

First ever media interview

It was with my high school newspaper. I remember a little later when they started to do video interviews and I got really nervous. I am a quiet person but I am happy for other people to hype me up.

First track disappointment

It was during the indoor season in my junior year at college. I came into the NCAA championships the number one ranked athlete on time in the 60m hurdles but I ended up finishing fourth behind Sharika Nelvis (note, in a very tight finish Harrison placed fourth finishing just 0.01 behind Nelvis).

First toy

I remember getting a trampoline as a youngster. As I did both gymnastics and cheerleading I was the flipping queen on the trampoline.

First pet

We had lots of animals growing up. We had five dogs, gerbils, chinchillas, rabbits, a cat and a tarantula. As for the tarantula, I was okay with it so long as it wasn’t in my room!

First fashion disaster

My mum used to pick out all my clothes for me when I was younger, which I was not really happy about. I felt she always picked out the ugliest clothes for me and I always had to write her notes to tell her what I really wanted to wear!

First piece of clothing bought

It was only when I first started at Clemson University, and I had my first debit card, did I go wardrobe shopping for the first time. I remember going summer shopping and I definitely went on a shopping spree.

First thing you learned to cook

It was probably baked chicken at college. I didn’t really cook growing up so my room-mate taught me how to bake chicken.

First car

My parents bought me a 2011 Honda Civic when I was a junior in college. Unfortunately, a month later my car was wrecked when I was waiting at a red light and a car hit me from behind. It was then like dominoes in that I hit the person in front of me and they hit the person in front of them.

Steve Landells for the IAAF