Keni Harrison, Elaine Thompson star at Drake, Penn Relays

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Hurdler Keni Harrison responded to the disappointment of not making the U.S. Olympic team by breaking a world record a few weeks later.

Now she wants to prove that was no fluke, and she’s off to some start.

Harrison cruised to victory in the 100m hurdles Saturday at the Drake Relays. She won in a world-leading 12.56 seconds despite rain, cold and wind and a field featuring six other hurdlers ranked in the world’s top 10.

Harrison ran a 12.54 two weeks earlier, but that was wind-aided.

“My coach just told me, ‘You know, you missed the Olympic finals. So treat each race this year as an Olympic final,'” Harrison said. “So I just want to come out and really see how far I can go and prove to myself and everyone else that I can run in big meets.”

Jasmin Stowers of the U.S. was second in 12.76. Dawn Harper-Nelson, an American who won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and silver four years later, was third in 12.79.

Full Drake Relays results are here.

At the Penn Relays, Olympic 100m and 200m champion Elaine Thompson came from behind to anchor Jamaica to win the 4x100m over the U.S., 42.25 to 42.42. The American quartet was headlined by English Gardner, who was seventh in the 100m in Rio but helped the U.S. to 4x100m relay gold at her first Games.

Harrison, a former star at Kentucky, finished sixth with a trip to the Rio Games on the line last year. But last July she broke a record that stood for 28 years, running a 12.20 in a Diamond League event in London.

The track world has been watching Harrison since. On her agenda for 2017 is a return to London, site of this year’s world championships, and a shot at the world title that eluded her in Rio.

“It builds my confidence. I just tell myself ‘You’re the world record holder. You’re really blessed in this event,'” Harrison said. “That’s my number one goal, to go get gold in London.”

Because of the miserable conditions — temperatures were in the low 40s with strong gusts and rain that at times fell sideways — just a single meet record fell in the elite races.

That mark went to Jamaica’s Omar McLeod, who ran a Drake-best 13.04 to win the 110m hurdles.

“It’s cold. But once you come out here and see the crowd … it takes away from that,” McLeod said.

In the women’s 400m hurdles, Rio bronze medalist Ashley Spencer stumbled into the fifth hurdle after her hip locked. Spencer fell and failed to finish, and fellow American Georganne Moline won in a world-leading 54.66.

Spencer said she lost feeling in her feet and hands after 150 meters, just before taking her tumble.

“I was running on a whim and a prayer,” Spencer said.

Clayton Murphy won the men’s 1500m in 3:41.75 — his third victory in a week. Murphy also won in the 4x800m at the World Relays in the Bahamas last weekend and the USA Track and Field mile road track title in Des Moines on Tuesday.

Canada’s Derek Drouin, the Olympic high jump champion, won in 7-feet-6 ½ inches. Lorriane Ugen won the women’s long jump in 21-3 ½.

Sam Hendricks of the U.S., who won Rio pole vault bronze, took first at 19-0 ¼.

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Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever
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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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