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DSC_9124-2.jpgKeni Harrison, photo by Brian Eder for RunBlogRun

The US hurdle team, USATF Outdoors, photo by Mike Deering, The Shoe Addicts 

  All Four Yankees Gain 100m Hurdle Final

August 11th, 2017

London, England

How outstanding are the American women 100 meter hurdlers? American Briana Rollins - the reigning Olympic champion who is ineligible this season as a consequence of missing several drug testing appointments - is not even here. And the reigning Olympic bronze medalist Kristi Castlin is also missing, unable to make the U.S. World team. But no worries, the US of A, by virtue of the Diamond League bye earned by world record-holder Kendra Harrison, has 4 other women - Harrison, Nia Ali, Dawn Harper Nelson, and Christina Manning - here. And they are doing very well, thank you very much. After they all performed admirably in the first two rounds of the 100H, the American quartet will comprise half the field for Saturday's final.

They don't want to just win all the medals in the hurdle final. That was done in Rio when Rollins, Ali, and Castlin went 1-2-3. These talented ladies want to go 1-2-3-4 - a sweep, plus a chaser, if you will.

Australia's Sally Pearson may well have something to say about all of this. The Aussie - a former Olympic and World champion - appears to have regained the form that won her those titles earlier this decade. Running the fastest time in today's semi-final - a 12.53 - she will be a serious medal threat in the final.

With all Americans making it through, the USA hurdlers shared thoughts in the mixed zone about their semi-final races and the upcoming final.

After bashing the opening hurdle, Nia Ali kept her poise, refocused, regained her momentum, and - aided by a spirited run-in over the last hurdle - closed hard to finish in 12.79, just behind Pearson. "I crashed [in today's semi] but I was able to stay forward and recover really well. So I was happy about that," declared the Olympic silver medalist. "I just prayed to be in the final because I know anything can happen. But I know you also have to get there. And Ali is the one to be there. I am just praying for my teammates to get through and it will be the first time I've ever competed in the final with 4 USA athletes. So it would be awesome."

Aided by a terrific start, Christina Manning had an instant margin over the field in the second semi - and she never let up on the gas. "I felt really good out of the blocks. I just wanted to get out there and keep it pushing through 10 [hurdles]. I am so excited," explained the former Ohio State star who was the victor in 12.71. "Honestly, I always say this is the easy part. You get through the rounds; go to the final, and no pressure. You just go in and give it all you've got. And that's what I want to do." Manning envisioned no major changes in her race plan for the final. "I don't know if there is anything that I can work on now. Just execute. Honestly, that's all I have to do." The former Big Ten champion acknowledged the mental lift provided by a great start. "When I get a good start, I want to keep it going. It's always that I am running from people. I don't do it often, but if I do get out behind someone else it is different." A slow-motion, head-on replay of Manning's race revealed Manning emitting a rhythmic bellow as she clears each hurdle. Christina, do you really snarl over every barrier? "Yeah, sometimes I do."

After her surprise win in the 3rd semi-final heat, Dawn Harper Nelson [12.63] executed an impromptu cartwheel, getting in touch with her playful self. Later holding court with the media, the 2008 Olympic champion was quick to cite the terrific encouragement she receives from her husband. "He is so supportive. We know we want to have a family. But he tells me, 'You love this. Do this. And when you do come home one day, I want you to be happy and not 'You made me come home.' So right now my family is just huge support." The veteran American was asked why she is still a hurdle warrior after all these years. "Because I still feel like I have something left. I still feel like I have great performances. As much as it stresses me out, I love to hurdle. I really do." Before scampering off to cool down, Harper Nelson revealed she has no surprise hairdo planned for Saturday's final.

The most anxious moment among all of the American hurdlers was provided by Kendra Harrison. After clubbing the opening hurdle, the world record holder clipped 4 more barriers in an ugly effort that saw her cross the line in 12.86 - just good enough to grab the last time qualifier by .02 seconds. "After that first little false start [by another athlete], I tried to refocus. I think I got out well. And I didn't react to the hurdle [her smash of hurdle one]. So after hitting it, I told myself 'Keep going. You can't stop here.' I've trained too hard for this. So as soon as I crossed the line, I heard somebody say 'You made it.' So that was a relief." Harrison downplayed both her rough ride in the semi and what will be her less-appealing lane assignment for the final. "We see it all the time. People in the outside lanes still can come out and win this. We've seen this from Kori Carter yesterday [in the 400H final]. I train with her. And as our coach [Edrick Floreal] says, you have to have a short term memory in this sport. And that's what I have. I'm ready." When asked how this year she has had the composure to handle the type of difficult moments that caused her meltdowns in the past, the former Kentucky star had an answer. "You just have to be confident,' declared Harrison. "Yeah, I ran one of my slowest times, but I know I am in the shape of my life. I know I can do well. When I have a hiccup, I bounce back. I ran 12.2 this season so I'm right there. And I'm just going to do whatever it takes to come across the line first." Before heading off, the world's #1 ranked hurdler offered a final thought on Saturday's championship race. "I expect an exciting race. I know all these girls want it really bad. We're going to put on a great performance."

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Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.


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