Most Olympians have trained for decades, learning the ins-and-outs of their respective sports, developing world-class skills since grade school.
For Virginia Tech senior hurdler Queen Harrison, who in 2008 became the first Tech female track and field athlete to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic squad, that’s not the case.
“Back in middle school and high school, I didn’t really take track seriously,” Harrison said. “So it was kind of like — I’d just go to practice and just do whatever, whatever coach told me to.”
It wasn’t until Harrison’s first year at Tech when she realized she wanted to do more than just earn a scholarship with her legs.
“I really think it was my freshman year indoor, when I didn’t make it to nationals in the 60 hurdles,” she explained. “I mean, I was right there, I was close — I understood it was my first year of really being a short hurdler, but I had really wanted to go and it kind of put things in perspective, like — maybe you’re not taking this as seriously as you need to, so, I think that was kind of a rude awakening to let me know I need to step it up a little bit.”
Two years ago, Harrison not only earned a role on the U.S. Olympic squad, but advanced to the semi-finals in the 400-meter hurdles competition at the Beijing games.
Despite missing out on valuable learning experience early on in her career, she has done everything and more to make up for that time lost at Tech.
“Since I got to college, collegiate track is a whole different level and it’s like, you won’t be successful if you don’t put the work in,” Harrison said.
While her journey to track and field stardom was unlikely, her focus is unwavering.
“What I had to do to prepare, was just mentally decide that this was something I wanted to do, that I wanted to be successful and hopefully make a career out of it,” she said. “That’s really what motivates me, is just the mental aspect of it. Once you do that — I mean, you can push your body to places you never thought you could if you get it in your mind that you’ll do that.”
In her former Olympic event, the 400-meter hurdles, and what her coach calls her best event, the 100-meter hurdles, Harrison has spent the past four years setting a precedent in ACC competition.
Since arriving to Blacksburg, Harrison has continued to improve at a remarkable rate.
In her freshman year, she finished with a season-best time of 12.98 in the 100-meter hurdles at the NCAAs and was the top-ranked World Junior hurdler in the 400-meter event with a time of 55.81 seconds.
Improving in 2008, she upped the ante by setting school records, recording a 12.70 in the 100-meter event and a 54.60 in the 400-meter event at the Olympic trials.