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From Charger to Olympian

Anna Cockrell ’16 had a big year in 2021: She won two national championships in 100 meter and 400 meter hurdles competing on the University of Southern California track team. Then, it was on to the summer Olympics in Tokyo, where she represented Team USA and won two heats to make it to the 400 meter hurdle finals.

In the fall, she found time to visit the PD campus during Homecoming before moving to Texas to turn professional. She took some time this winter to share a little more about what the last year was like, and what the future holds.

Q: We all cheered you on last summer during the Olympics and national championships. What has your life been like since then?

I don't even know how to describe it. I feel like it's been nonstop since the month of June. I took about a month off after the Games and just hung out at my parents' house and really didn't do anything while I was finalizing my contract negotiations to run professionally (for Nike). And then I pretty much up and decided I was going to move to Texas. I moved during September and have been out here in Fort Worth since then, just training, getting acclimated. A lot of change, a lot of transition, but all good stuff.

Q: How do you like Fort Worth compared to Charlotte?

I had been in Los Angeles for five years. So to go from that to Fort Worth was definitely a shock. I'm really only about 40 minutes outside of Dallas. Surprisingly, I really enjoy this slower pace.

Q: What does your future hold, both near term and longer term goals and plans?

This is a really strange cycle for track and field because the pandemic kind of threw off all the meets and major championships. So normally there'd be an off year at some point, but instead for the next three summers, there's a major international championship every year.

This summer is the World Outdoor Championships in Oregon. There’s another World Outdoor Championships in 2023 (in Hungary). And then the (2024) Olympic year in Paris. The goals right now are oriented around training and getting to do some really cool stuff with Nike. Long term, competing and slowly adding more things into my life beyond running as I get used to it.

Q: What else beyond running?

I feel like this is so lame, but I don't do much right now. Practice is so long. I'm out of my house around 9:30 a.m., and I don't come back until after 4:00 p.m. I don't do all that much outside of practice and then obligations I have now as a pro. There's some stuff I slowly want to get into as I learn to manage all of this, but nothing yet. (laughing) I got super into coffee and so now I have a French press and I make my own flavored syrups to put in my coffee. I'm like, this is my personality now: coffee.

Q: Can you share some of your inside perspective on the Olympic experience?

A lot of people had this perception that it was completely empty in the stadium. And I mean, it was far from full, but you still had press, you still had coaches, you still had athletes who weren't competing on that day in the venue. So it wasn't like dead silence or crickets or anything like that. I think I was probably pretty well prepared for that just because during the NCAA season, most of that was either no fans or limited numbers.

It still felt like the biggest meet of my life, even though I kept telling myself, ‘Oh, it's just another meet. There's no reason to be super nervous.’ That all kind of goes out the window when you get out there and you're in the uniform!

Q: What are your standout memories from the experience?

I think my favorite part of all of it was I just really enjoyed all of my suitemates. I knew one of the girls in the suite with me. She's also from Charlotte, Gabbi Cunningham. She went to Mallard Creek. We raced in high school, but we never really had a chance to get to know each other.

Q: Is there something that stands out from your memories of Providence Day that prepared you for everything you experienced over this past year?

My relationship with Coach (Carol) Lawrence and how detail oriented she was. She just set me up so well to be able to handle the intensity and the workload that it takes to get to the next level. When I went to college, I just had an unbelievable base of being able to do different movement, being able to run different workouts. It was easier to acclimate because I had learned so much from her. I still train with her every time I'm at home, she's always out there at practice for me. Anytime I need a track or I need a set of eyes on me or I need someone to hold the watch for me at practice, I've always had a home at PD and a home with her.

Q: Who else stands out in your memories?

Mr. (Ted) Dickson is way up there as one of my favorites. I've always loved history and he was such a phenomenal teacher. Señor (Jay) Barron accompanied me on guitar for my senior year when I performed at the last assembly. I have a lot of good memories of Providence Day teachers. I want to make sure I give a shout out to Freddy Cotton, because he still comes out to see me practice when I'm in town. I don't know if there's a meet that Freddy has missed since I was at Providence Day.

Q: What’s your message to PD’s current students?

There are really a lot of great individuals at Providence Day who are really open, able, and willing to be a mentor. I would just say, take advantage of that. There are a lot of people who are willing to go above and beyond. Whether you're an athlete like I was, or if you're asking Señor Barron to play guitar for you, there's a lot of talent and a lot of resources.

High School and Middle School are inherently embarrassing times because you're going through a weird phase of life and you're trying to be an
adult, but you're not quite there yet. And there's so much you don't know. One thing I've realized is that you're never really going to know everything that's going on. Every scenario can be potentially embarrassing. And so if you just let that go and do the things you really want to do, pursue what you want to pursue, and ask for help when you need it, you'll be amazed at how far you can go and the people who will join you on the journey along the way.

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