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Kendra Harrison just misses American record

Kendra Harrison (Photo by Elliott Hess | UK Athletics)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The sheer numbers don’t lie. The 23rd-annual Rod McCravy Memorial Track and Field meet was awesome. Again.

Not just the quantity of world-leading times (four), NCAA-leading marks (eight), meet records (six) and facility records (four).

The quality of the times too.

Chief among them was the 60-meter hurdles time that world record holder Kendra Harrison (100H) posted.

Those who follow Harrison’s career wouldn’t be surprised she opened her 2017 so fast – at least at first glance. After all, she showed the intent of what would become a historically dominant season – of course with the exception an Olympic Trials hiccup – in winning the McCravy with one of the 10 fastest times (7.83 seconds) in American history last year. Her outdoor-season opener was the fastest ever, a telling start to a year, which saw her break the 23-year old world record.

On Saturday, Harrison picked up just where she left off in 2016. And that starting place was kind of insane.

She scorched a pretty classy field by running the ninth fastest time in world history: 7.75 moving her up from 13th on the all-time world list. That for a season-opening performance to say nothing of starting the campaign with a personal best – not exactly all that common for an athlete of Harrison’s accomplishments, although she’s made a habit of it.

The time was the third fastest in American history, .03 seconds off Lolo Jones’ American record. Gail Devers is the only other American to have run faster. It was the second fastest season debut in history and the fastest ever recorded in the month of January.

“That was that was the goal,” Harrison said. “My coach tells me we need to set the world on fire right from the jump. Prelims, I kind of got my jitters out, and then final I kind of just let go and ran a PR. To see multiple PRs throughout the field – from the UK team – it’s great.

“I plan on going to Europe (later this season). I’m not sure how many races I’ll be running. Probably not a lot. I’ll probably start focusing on the sprints.”

Harrison’s fellow UK volunteer assistant coach Leah Nugent broke eight seconds in the 60m hurdles for the first time to place second in 7.96.

She had an indoor-career day running a 400m PR 52.69 to place third in a competition that saw two of that event’s NCAA favorites Shakima Wimbley (Miami) and Kendall Ellis (USC) post the nation’s top two times this year (51.28 and 51.52).

The home Wildcats remained the talk of the day’s marquee events over 60 meters, predictably with hurdles on the track, but also in the dash.

UK senior Javianne Oliver won the season’s first showdown of All-Americans from a year ago. She edged Texas’ defending NCAA 60m dash Champion Teahna Daniels in a personal-best 7.18 to Daniels’ 7.21. Oliver improved her place as the No. 2 performer in school history, behind only Dezerea Bryant.

Both broke Morolake Akinosun’s meet record of 7.22, set at the 2015 McCravy. Oliver’s time moved her into second place on the UK all-time performers’ list, and leads the nation.

“The first race was good, and the second one was even better,” Oliver said. “I’m just happy to get an early PR at a meet with such good competition. Having the NCAA defending champion running right beside me – it’s just nice to get out there and run with good competition.

“I’m not going to bank on anything right now, but I’m just glad to know I’m in the loop and in the top-eight right now. To know I can compete with the top people in the nation puts a little confidence in me.”

UK senior Nick Anderson ran the best 60m hurdles time of his career: 7.77 to win. That time ranks No. 3 in the nation.

Freshman Daniel Roberts placed third in a PR 7.86, while sophomore Caleb Wilt was fifth.

“It felt really good today,” Anderson said. “Just trying to get fast, and get quick over the hurdles. We’ve been working on my start, and getting over hurdle No. 1. I just kind of got out and tried to surge after that. Got a PR.”

“I’m reacting well to the gun now. Instead of starting behind everybody, and trying to catch up I’m actually staying in the race.”

UK junior Jacklyn Howell ran a personal best 8.20 to make the 60m hurdles final, where she finished fifth.

Kenshard Hamilton placed third in the men’s 60m.

Kentucky finished the McCravy with two NCAA-leading women’s sprint times as Kianna Gray ran 23.17 to win the 200m on Friday evening.

USC’s Amalie Iuel won the 600-yard race in a meet record 1:19.56, notable because it previously belonged to 2016 U.S. 4x400m relay Olympic Gold Medalist and reigning Bowerman Award winner Courtney Okolo.

USC’s 4x400m relay of Pettigrew, Iuel, Constantine and Ellis won the 4x400m relay in a world-leading 3:31.73.

Kansas’ Jake Albright won the men’s pole vault in an NCAA-leading 18’2”/5.54m.

Olympian Raven Saunders broke the facility record she set at last year’s Kentucky Invitational en route to the shot put title.

Texas’ men’s distance medley relay and Baylor’s women’s DMR set the NCAA leads on Friday night.

Baylor freshman Aaliyah Miller – the reigning World U20 800m Silver Medalist – came within a second of her PR to win her signature event in a 2017 NCAA best 2:03.43.

Notable performances by Wildcats
Cameron Short lost his day-one lead after the pole vault, but came back to win the heptathlon with a score of 3121.

Kentucky’s women’s 4x400m relay of Sha’Keela Saunders, Destiny Carter, Faith Ross and Kianna Gray won the second heat, and placed fourth overall, in 3:35.87, which makes them the No. 5-ranked team in the country. The top three times in the country this year came from the first heat.

Jacob Thomson ran 8:05.60 to place second in the 3k. Katy Kunc ran a PR 9:31.02 to place sixth in the women’s 3k.
Ian Jones ran a 800m PR 1:50.93 to place ninth in the men’s 800m, which saw Penn State sophomore Isaiah Harris won in 1:46.65 – a field house record, which is all the more impressive considering the half-milers who have run here just in the past few years.

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