Gabbi Cunningham and Keni Harrison, both first-time Olympians, made Sunday's 8-person final in the women’s 100 hurdles. They ran only two lanes apart in the largest race of their lives.
Harrison was second, Cunningham seventh. However, they were both beaten by Jasmine Camacho–Quinn who is the younger sister to former UNC football star Robert Quinn.
Camacho-Quinn is a South Carolina native who is now running for Puerto Rico as her mother is from there. She won the gold in the 100 hurdles in 12.37 seconds. Harrison took silver in 12.52 seconds to beat Megan Tapper from Jamaica, who took bronze (12.55). Cunningham was 13.01.
Harrison was born in Clayton, N.C. about 20 miles southwest of Raleigh. She was a Clayton Comets track star. Surprisingly, she didn't make it to the U.S. Olympic team for 2016, but she did set the world record in that event at a London meet the following year. She ran 12.20. Camacho Quinn attempted to break the world record, but she didn't manage it. Harrison ran in college for both Clemson (later Kentucky).
After the event, Harrison spoke to NBC about her experience and said that it was "just so fun coming here and just getting a Medal for my Country ..... Just being able to get a Silver medal at this stage in amazing."
Camacho-Quinn is the brother of Robert Quinn (ex-UNC football pass-rushing star who played 31 years) and now plays defensive end for the Chicago Bears. Both were born in Charleston, S.C. Camacho-Quinn ran a blistering 12.26 in the Olympic semifinals (0.11 second faster than in the final) and was the first to be qualified for the final eight.
Cunningham's 100 hurdles world ranking was a modest 25th at the Olympics. So qualifying for the top-8 finals was quite an accomplishment for the former Mallard Creek star and N.C. State athlete. Cunningham was the lowest-ranked hurdler who made it to the final.
Cunningham did not originally qualify for the Summer Games at Olympic Trials. However, second-place finisher Brianna McNeill was permitted to race at Trials because she was appealing her five year anti-doping suspension.
Cunningham was fourth in Trials. However, McNeil's suspension saw her move to third. Harrison and Cunningham were the only American hurdlers to reach the final. Team USA's Christina Clemons was eliminated earlier in the event.
Harrison had a better chance of winning a medal than the other N.C. hurdlers. She was ranked No. She was ranked No. 2 in the world for the event and holds the world record. At 28, she has more international experience than Cunningham, who is 23 years old.
The U.S. has been strong in women's 100 hurdles for a long time. They even won the event in Rio 2016 with a 1-2-3 victory.