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Team Of Rivals? Kendra Harrison Leads Dominant Corps Of U.S. 100-Meter Hurdlers

By Beau Eastes | May 31, 2016, 1:12 p.m. (ET)

Kendra Harrison reacts after winning the 100-meter hurdles at Hayward Field on May 28, 2016 in Eugene, Ore.

EUGENE, Ore. – Kendra Harrison set a new American record in the women’s 100-meter hurdles Saturday, winning the 42nd annual Prefontaine Classic in 12.24 seconds, tying her for the second-fastest mark of all time.

Posting the fastest women’s 100-meter hurdles time in almost 28 years, Harrison immediately became the favorite to win gold this August at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

If she makes the U.S. team, that is.

Four of the 10 fastest 100-meter hurdlers in world history — yes, world history — are expected to compete for three spots on the U.S. women’s team this July at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field in Eugene. Harrison, Brianna Rollins (12.26 seconds personal record), Sharika Nelvis (12.34 PR) and Jasmin Stowers (12.35 PR) sit second, tied for fourth, eighth and ninth, respectively, on the all-time personal-best list. And that doesn’t even include Dawn Harper-Nelson, who won Olympic gold in the 100 hurdles in 2008 and silver in 2012. She’s tied for 11th all time with a PB of 12.37.

(L-R) Sharika Nelvis and Danielle Williams of Jamaica compete in the women's 100-meter hurdles semifinal at the 15th IAAF World Championships at Beijing National Stadium on Aug. 28, 2015 in Beijing.

All four of those hurdlers joined Harrison at the Pre Classic, with Harrison, Rollins (12.53) and Stowers (12.55) going 1-2-3 at Hayward Field in an early preview of what looks to be one of the most competitive battles for a berth on the U.S. team in years. Nelvis finished fifth in 12.82 seconds, and Harper-Nelson placed eighth out of eight in 13.01. Nia Ali, another American, was fourth at 12.72.

“It’s crazy,” the 24-year-old Stowers said after her third-place effort at the Pre Classic. “We have some of the top hurdlers in history in this era. … It seems like every year someone steps up to the plate.”

This year has belonged to Harrison, who is in just her first professional season. After a stellar collegiate career at Clemson and Kentucky, the 23-year-old Harrison has the three fastest times of 2016. Her time this weekend lowered her personal best by 0.12 seconds, and she’s 0.29 seconds ahead of the next fastest hurdler, Rollins, who ran her season best at the Pre Classic.

“We push each other every time we come out on the track,” Harrison said after her win that broke Rollins’ American record of 12.26 seconds, set not quite three years ago at the 2013 USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. “(The competition) is getting me better and gets them better.”

Harrison, Rollins and Stowers have been the three-fastest 100-meter hurdlers in the world this year. No other woman has gone below the 12.6-second mark in 2016.

“Trials are going to be interesting,” said Rollins, 24, who earlier this year won the 60-meter hurdles at the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships and then finished second at the IAAF World Indoor Championships, both held in Portland, Oregon. “Everyone’s running pretty fast. … I could definitely see (the American record) get broke again. We just get better each and every time we compete against each other.”

Collectively, American hurdlers own nine of the fastest 10 times in the 100 hurdles this season. A podium sweep in Rio is not out of the question, assuming there are no slip-ups at the trials.

“You can’t think about the Olympics,” Stowers said. “Hurdlers are so unpredictable. One nip can cost you the race. Right now, it’s all about staying focused and getting ready for the trials.”

“It’s only May right now,” Rollins, the 2013 world champion, added. “We’re just trying to get our rhythms together and really focusing on July 7 and 8.”

Beau Eastes is a writer from Oregon. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.