At this time last year, very few people outside of Providence Day coach Carol Lawrence knew just how good freshman Anna Cockrell could be on the track.
Fast forward a year and Cockrell, a Providence Day sophomore, has already won four state titles (100-meter, 100-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles, 4x100 relay), a team title (Providence Day girls’ first) and is being recruited by dozens of major Division I college track teams.
Cockrell, 16, also won the 100-meter hurdles at the USA Track and Field (USATF) Junior Olympic Championships at N.C. A&T in June, while taking fourth in the USATF World Youth Track and Field Championships in the same event a week later at Southern Illinois University.
Cockrell has had so much success, she is even on the radar of legendary Olympic sprinting trainer John Smith, who is a close friend to Lawrence.
“I already know about every kid that comes to run for me before they get here, because I do research on each of them,” said Lawrence, who was a standout sprinter in college at the New York Institute of Technology. “When I saw Anna (Cockrell), I was impressed and I knew the type of talent and potential she had. I was like ‘I can work with this.’ But I think she may have even been better than I expected.”
While Cockrell had a great winter and spring last year, she really arrived at the NCISAA 3A state championships when she won three individual NCISAA 3A state titles in the 100-meter dash (12.06), 100-meter hurdles (13.93) and 300-meter hurdles (43.12), running personal bests in all three events. Cockrell’s 100 and 300-meter hurdles times were also NCISAA state records.
“I did have a lot of expectations for myself coming to Providence Day,” said Cockrell, who grew up as a gymnast and starting running track in 6th grade, when her family lived in Michigan. “But I think I even surprised myself a little bit last year. I never imagined that I was going to be breaking state records as a freshman. But my goal is always to run my best.”
Success has only made Cockrell want to work harder, and with Coach Lawrence at her side, she has made some small changes in her style and become a regular in the weight room.
At 5-foot-9 1/2 she is growing into an even better athlete and runner.
Her athletic talent comes naturally from her family, as her father Keith played football at Columbia University, while her older brother Ross, 22, was an all-state football player at Charlotte Latin before going on to to star at Duke and is now preparing for the NFL draft.
Her older sister, Providence Day junior Cierra Cockrell, 17, is a standout on the Chargers’ volleyball team.
While Anna is proud of her family’s success, she also hopes to keep making a name for herself at both Providence Day and on a national and international stage.
Cockrell is focused on winning three more individual state titles and a second straight team title this May, but will be running all over the country, too.
Cockrell is already planning on running in several prestigious events, including the Penn Relays in April and the World Junior Championships in Eugene, Oregon, in June. She is also hoping to get a “golden ticket” to the Brooks PR in Seattle, also in June.
While Cockrell dreams of one day running on the world’s biggest stage in the Olympics, she is taking everything one step at a time.
“As good as some people think I am, there are always people that are better,” Cockrell said. “I try to think in the short term and know my career is going to be a step by step process. My goal is to be at my best every time I run.”
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