BY LARRY VAUGHT
Having an athlete featured on a Sports Illustrated cover is not a rarity for the University of Kentucky. However, it’s usually men’s basketball, not track and field, that is featured.
But the July 17 Sports Illustrated cover featured incoming freshman Sydney McLaughlin for being named Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year for the second straight year — something no other high school athlete had ever done.
She finished sixth in the USA Track & Field 400-meter hurdles final with a time of 53.82 seconds — a world-record for athletes under 20. In 2016 she became the youngest person to make the U.S. Olympic team in decades.
Kentucky coach Eric Floreal intends to have her compete in the 100-meter hurdles and long jump as a freshman to give her a break after almost non-stop competing in the demanding 400 hurdles.
Kentucky volunteer assistant coach Kendra Harrison is the 100-meter hurdle world record holder.
“I am really excited to see new talent and see this program succeed and adding her to the roster will do that,” Harrison said. “I will treat her like all other athletes, but she is really talented and will also help push me. She is already such a big name for track and field for young athletes.
“It makes me feel good and appreciated that she said one reason she was coming here was to be around me. It’s hard to put into words what that means. I like to think of myself as a regular athlete but any way I can help Kentucky getting recruits here, I am down for it.”
McLaughlin dominated high school competition. But how good can she be?
“The sky is the limit for that girl,” Harrison said. “She still has not done a lot of collegiate workouts. She is already way beyond where I was at that age.”
* * *