Virginia Tech freshmen Queen Harrison has already earn herself a ticket to the Brazil for the Pan Am Junior Championships after a top two finish in the finals of the 100 meter hurdles at the USATF Junior National Championships today in Indianapolis. She now quickly shifts her attention to the 400 meter hurdles on Friday as she is heavily favored to become Virginia's next US Junior Nationals Champ as the top seed with a US juniors #3 all-time performance of 55.81 from her All-American third place finish at the NCAA Championships. The Hermitage High School graduate has well exceeded her expectations going into this year and is not looking to slow down anytime soon as the currently the fastest junior (19 & under) 400 meter hurdler in the World currently. MileStat.com's Brandon Miles was fortunate to interview in between her 100 meter hurdles finals on Thursday and her 400 meter hurdles prelims on Friday.(Photo from hokiesports.com)
MileStat.com: How does it feel to know after today that you are going to Brazil? Are you excited to get your first taste of international level competition?
Harrison: I'm VERY excited. Although it's a different even than I planned on, I've been training for an opportunity like this since the fall. I haven't been out of the country before so that's also going to be exciting in itself.
MileStat.com: You had great success in high school, but you have definitely elevated yourself to another level as a college freshmen excelling past many of the athletes that were ranked ahead of you last year as a high school senior. What were your expectations for your freshmen year of college? Have you been surprised with the way you have raced this year?
Harrison: Well, I had a rocky start this past indoor season. I was still recovering from my hamstring injury from senior year and I didn't have a "main event" per say indoors so I felt like I was struggling. But when outdoors came along, I was able to build my confidence back up, with help from my parents and coach, and I definitely exceeded all expectations I had for myself. Don't get me wrong, I had confidence that I would do well, but 55.8 and 12.98 are definitely more than I expected.
MileStat.com: While you were strong in the hurdles in high school, you were also a great jumper and sometimes more known as a jumper than hurdler. However, this spring in particular, it seems that you have been exclusively a hurdler. Was this planned or did your success in the hurdles make the jumps take the backseat? Do you prefer focusing on less events and perform at a higher level than one?
(Photo left by John Herzog)
Harrison: It's actually funny. Taking time off from the jumps was definitely not planned but as time went on it seemed to be the best move for me. My coach and I decided that I should choose one to focus on for my freshman year and hurdles just happened to be the event of choice. Jumps are definitely not out of the question for me, but for right now I'm choosing to focus on perfecting my hurdling skills.
MileStat.com: Speaking of your coach, Virginia Tech sprints coach Lawrence Johnson has had a great year with yourself and other hurdlers and sprinters on the Tech team. The Virginia Tech women seem to have stolen the thunder from other state schools traditionally the leaders in those events. What is Coach Johnson doing right at VT?
Harrison: He's doing a lot right at VT! He's a tough, very tough, but loving coach. He is like a father-figure to a lot of us because he has the ability to yell at you for not running a 500 correctly but also turn around and take you to the grocery store the next day if you need him to.
MileStat.com: Today in the finals of the 100 meter hurdles finals, you went 1-2 with teammate and fellow freshmen Kristi Castlin and will have another teammate in junior Sherlenia Green in the senior nationals 400 meter hurdles on Friday. How helpful has having a strong hurdle crew at Tech to push you in your own individual performances?
Harrison: I think that having such strong hurdlers on your team is very important to all of our developments. It's like training with the best, everyday. Some days we don't even run against each other in practice just to avoid overly competing, but it definitely helps me to have them as competition in addition to support when it comes to the hurdles.
MileStat.com: Your time at NCAA's in the 400 meter hurdles was a US juniors #3 all-time in 55.81. Are you looking to drop that time this weekend in Indy and move further up on the all-time list and challenge the meet record? What is your mindset going into an event which you are so heavily favored with nearly two seconds to spare on the next seed?
Harrison: I am definitely looking to drop that time this weekend. I had a great weekend at NCAA's and my 400 hurdles race was also very good in my eyes, but I feel as if I have a lot left in me so I definitely am going to be going after the meet record. As for the all-time list, 54.7 is the time to beat, and I feel as if I can do it so that will also be on my mind this weekend.
About being favored in the event, I try my best not to let that settle into my mind. Usually I look at seedings and how everyone is ranked and I try to forsee how I may do but after NCAA's, I don't even think that is possible anymore. People surprise you when it comes to a championship situation so I won't put anything past anyone.
MileStat.com: Has the success you have experienced this year made you think more about life after college as a post-collegiate professional in the sport? Everyone says their goal is to compete in the Olympics, but you have set yourself in a nice postion at this stage of development to become an Olympic hopeful someday. Do those thoughts cross your mind?
(Photo right from hokiesports.com)
Harrison: Competing in the Olympic trials and the Olympics has definitely crossed my mind. Coming into college, I knew that I had been good on the high school level but I didn't know that I could develop into a contender on the collegiate level in the hurdles, especially since I never ran the 400 meter hurdles prior to coming to college.
But the Olympics, in 2008 and 2012 and maybe after that have crossed my mind a lot, especially lately.
MileStat.com: How have your high school coaches and former teammates at Hermitage reacted and responded to your great season?
Harrison: Coach Spain was my foundation and now he's like my number one fan! He keeps up with me and makes sure to call me now and then to let me know how proud he is of me, especially after big meets. My former teammates are the same way. Tanique Carter and I are still best friends so it's great to hear her tell me how proud she is of me.
MileStat.com: Lastly, how has the class workload been for you so far this year as an aeropsace engineering major?
Harrison: (Laughing) Well freshman courses are pretty much the same no matter what your major is, but I'm not majoring in engineering anymore. I'm into marketing now, it feels like a better fit.