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Providence Day track star Anna Cockrell surprises even herself sometimes

By Jay Edwards
Correspondent
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/02/27/13/42/iOHSs.Em.138.jpeg|316
    - Observer file photo
    Providence Day freshman Anna Cockrell broke two state meet hurdle records to help the Chargers to their first girls' track championship.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/03/01/22/06/1eS6Q6.Em.138.jpeg|188
    - Observer file photo
    Providence Day freshman Anna Cockrell broke two state meet hurdle records to help the Chargers to their first girls' track championship.

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  • Girls Track Athletes to Watch

    Anna Cockrell, Providence Day, So.: Burst onto the scene winning three individual state titles (100-meter, 100-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles) while helping Chargers to their first team, state championship ever.

    Malia Ellington, Community School of Davidson, Jr.: Reigning co-Observer runner of the year won three 1A individual state titles (800, 1600, 3200) last year and looks to do it again this spring.

    Reneazia Collins, Monroe, Sr.: The other reigning co-Observer runner of the year also looks to pull off three more state title runs like she did in 2013 (200-meter, 100-meter hurdles, 400-meter).

    Bianca Bishop, Providence, Sr.: N.C. State signee wants to cap her career with another state title in the 3200-meter run (won 2013 indoor title in same event), after finishing 3rd last year.

    Lexi King, Marvin Ridge, Fr.: Mavericks’ freshman is a state contender already is distance runs.

    Julia Scoles, South Iredell, So.: Won the state title in the long jump, was runner-up in high jump and 5th in state in triple jump in her first year of organized, now looks for more.

    Khayla Dawson, Olympic, So.: State runner-up in the shot put in both indoor (2014) and outdoor (2013) wants to finish one spot higher.

    Observer Boys Athletes to Watch

    Trentavis Friday, Cherryville, Sr.: Florida State signee, reigning Observer runner of the year set a state record to win the 100-meter dash (10.48) and also won 200 and 400-meter, 1A state titles.

    Ben Huffman, Providence Day, Sr.: Harvard-bound runner is coming off a record-setting cross country season, where he was N.C. Gatorade state runner of the year (NCISAA state champ) and looks to add even more state championships (individual/team) to his resume this spring.

    Wyatt Maxey, Providence, Sr.: N.C. State signee coming off a state title in the 1000-meter this winter, looks to add another in his final outdoor season.

    Christian White, Charlotte Latin, Sr.: Stanford signee looks to defend his NCISAA 3A 800-meter state title and more.

    Patrick Sheehan, Lake Norman, Sr.: N.C. State signee amongst the best distance runners in state on any surface, now looks to finish his career with a state title.

    Marcus Abraham, Victory Christian, Jr.: Back to defend his NCISAA 3A state titles in discus and shot put.

    Andrew Fea and Ryan Shannon, North Lincoln, Sr.: Both Knight standouts should challenge for 3A state titles in the distance (1600, 3200) races.



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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