Olympic Trials Women’s 100H — Sweet Redemption For Keni Harrison

A win this time around put Keni Harrison’s shocking 6th in ’16 firmly in the rearview mirror. (KEVIN MORRIS)

FOR SEVERAL YEARS NOW the 100 hurdles has been one of the hardest events to formchart, especially in the talent-laden USA — remember in ’16 how the freshly minted AR holder placed 6th and missed the trip to Rio?

This year was similarly a guessing game, but this time that AR (and now WR) holder, Keni Harrison, met expectations and took the title.

Even so, the favorite was just barely ahead of a blanket finish that saw just 0.02 between 2nd and 4th, and a mere 0.005 between making the team and not (maybe … more on that in a bit).

Unlike ’16, Harrison — the reigning WC silver medalist — was superbly consistent through the rounds, looking polished and unflappable. She took her heat in 12.49, her semi in 12.50, and then went slightly faster for her 12.47 victory in the finals (wind 0.8).

Nothing ever looked certain for Harrison — the 28-year-old Kentucky alum opened up the tiniest sliver of daylight between herself and the field on hurdle 5, and that margin grew only by the slightest degree. Reigning Olympic champion Brianna McNeal, LSU’s Tonea Marshall, Christina Clemons and Gabbi Cunningham all appeared ready to knock her off the team if she faltered in the slightest.

She didn’t. The length of her leaning torso was the margin over McNeal’s 12.51. Fighting for the final team spot, Clemons and Cunningham both clocked 12.53s, with finer splitting putting Clemons at 12.521 and Cunningham being left off the team at 12.526.

But Cunningham still has hope. McNeal is facing a 5-year suspension — officially charged by the AIU with “tampering within the results management process” — but was allowed to compete while awaiting the result of her CAS appeal. If McNeal loses the appeal, Cunningham is in.

Harrison was relieved to move one step closer to erasing the stigma of being a WR holder with no Olympic credentials to her name, telling NBC’s Lewis Johnson, “I’m so glad I could put the past behind me and just move forward. I worked so hard for this moment and I’m looking forward to it.”

McNeal addressed her precarious spot on the team: “I’m just so grateful that I even had the opportunity to even be here. It’s been such a long journey for me. It’s been very, very tough for me this year,” including losing her brother in a car crash recently.

Like the more celebrated Harrison, the 31-year-old Clemons will make her Olympic debut. “When it comes to Tokyo, I’ll be ready,” said Clemons, a ’17 WC finalist.

WOMEN’S 100H RESULTS

(June 20; wind +0.8)

1. Keni Harrison (adi) 12.47;

2. Brianna McNeal (Nik) 12.51;

3. Christina Clemons (adi) 12.53;

4. Gabbi Cunningham (Nik) 12.53;

5. Anna Cockrell (USC) 12.58;

6. Tonea Marshall (LSU) 12.63;

7. Payton Chadwick (Asics) 12.66;

8. Alia Armstrong (LSU) 12.84;

9. TeJyrica Robinson (NCAT) 12.99

(lanes: 1. Armstrong; 2. McNeal; 3. Cockrell; 4. Harrison; 5. Marshall; 6. Clemons; 7. Chadwick; 8. Cunningham; 9. Robinson)

(reaction times: Marshall 0.130; Clemons 0.139; Robinson 0.143; Cockrell 0.147; McNeal 0.152; Cunningham & Armstrong 0.153; Harrison 0.186; Chadwick 0.190)

HEATS (June 19)

I(-0.3)–1. Harrison 12.49; 2. Grace Stark (Fl) 12.85; 3. Sharika Nelvis (adi) 12.92; 4. Evonne Britton (EvoTC) 12.96; 5. Dawn Harper-Nelson (Caden) 13.12; 6. Tiffani McReynolds (unat) 13.22; 7. Faith Ross (Ky) 13.32; 8. Akira Rhodes (NCSt) 13.39.

II(0.8)–1. Taliyah Brooks (Asics) 12.61 PR; 2. Clemons 12.64; 3. Queen Quedith Claye (unat) 12.93; 4. Robinson 12.93; 5. Cha’mia Rothwell (Duke) 13.10; 6. Tawnie Moore (unat) 13.23; 7. Camri Austin (Ok) 13.36; 8. Madeleine Akobundu (NCAT) 13.70.

III(1.0)–1. Cockrell 12.63; 2. Rayniah Jones (UCF) 12.64 PR; 3. Chadwick 12.66 PR; 4. Armstrong 12.82 PR; 5. Kristi Castlin (Nik) 12.88; 6. Amber Hughes (unat) 13.13; 7. Danielle Beattie (unat) 13.28 PR; 8. Destiny Huven (Wi) 13.33.

IV(0.1)–1. McNeal 12.50; 2. Cunningham 12.67 PR; 3. Marshall 12.76; 4. Chanel Brissett (Tx) 12.80; 5. Dior Hall (unat) 12.99; 6. Masai Russell (Ky) 13.09;… dnf—Jasmine Jones (USC).

SEMIS (June 19)

I(1.2)–1. Marshall 12.50; 2. Clemons 12.51; 3. McNeal 12.56; 4. Cunningham 12.61; 5. Armstrong 12.65; 6. Brooks 12.70; 7. Nelvis 12.81; 8. Castlin 12.84; 9. Britton 12.95.

II(1.3)–1. Harrison 12.50; 2. Cockrell 12.59; 3. Chadwick 12.64; 4. Robinson 12.65; 5. Jones 12.68; 6. Brissett 12.71; 7. Claye 12.78; 8. Stark 12.79.

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