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

My greatest challenge – Kendra Harrison

World 100m hurdles record-holder Kendra Harrison may be one of the current generation’s most exciting talents, but her life has not all been plain sailing. Here the US hurdler talks about overcoming obstacles during her college life. 

Extremely competitive, on the field and in the classroom

The greatest challenge I have faced was handling the demands of being an elite athlete while juggling a rigorous academic schedule and managing to achieve success in both my athletics and academics as a college student.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have always been extremely competitive. If I do something, I want to be the best at it and I won’t stop working until I get there. I’m never satisfied.

Growing up I was diagnosed with a learning disability which caused me to struggle in the classroom. But I was determined not to let my disability hold me back, even if that meant I had to work harder than most students. I told myself that despite my setbacks I wasn't going to make excuses for myself. 

Cultivating and maintaining academic and athletics balance

I also knew the career of an athlete is extremely fragile with no guarantees, which is why I made sure I took my education seriously. I obviously wanted to reach the top level on the track but I made sure I handled business in the classroom as well.

It was not an easy balance to succeed in both areas, I needed excellent time management. Being an athlete is time consuming as well as physically and mentally draining. You have to prioritise and stay on top of things, because you don't have the luxury of extra time and energy like other students. 

 Believing in herself

Succeeding on the track had its challenges, too. My toughest point in my college journey was believing I could actually compete at the highest level. Being around such amazing athletes, I wanted to be just like them. With the help of my coach, Edrick Floreal, I started to find my confidence.

To help me succeed, I became a student of the sport. I watched endless practice film and race videos. I know I probably annoyed my coach with all of my questions.

Yet over time, the hard work paid off. My outdoor season in my senior year was a real whirlwind. I won the NCAA 100m hurdles title and received the NCAA top 10 award. I had accomplished my two biggest goals as a collegiate athlete: winning a national championship and receiving my college diploma (Harrison majored in community leadership development).

When I look back at my college career, athletically and academically, I can't believe how blessed I am. Thanks to all the support I received at the University of Kentucky, I was able to follow my dreams and receive a solid foundation for my life after college. 

Steve Landells for the IAAF

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