Road to Cuba: Anna Cockrell, Blog #1

by Steve Underwood

During these final weeks leading up to and including our 2015 Caribbean Scholastic Invitational in Cuba, two of the participating athletes are blogging for us: Anna Cockrell and Dylan Peebles (see his blog HERE).

Anna is a junior at Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is one of the nation's top combo hurdlers and sprinters, with her biggest accomplishment to date being a runner-up finish in the NBNI 60m hurdles (US#2 8.21, #5 all-time). Last spring, she was 3rd in the 100H and 4th in the 400H at NBNO. We look forward to her being part of our Team NSAF!

I first learned about the Caribbean Scholastic Invitational at the end of January. My coach received an email from Joy Kamani asking if I’d like to be on the list of athletes considered for selection, along with information about the meet.  Words cannot express how excited my family and my coach were, and how excited I was to see that email!  I’ve never competed outside of the US before, and finding out I had a chance to run in Cuba was unexpected and incredible.  I already had big aspirations for my indoor season, but knowing my performance could lead to a spot on the team motivated me even more.

This past indoor season, I think I really started to come into my own as a runner.  I ran fast times early in the season, but ended up kind of hitting a wall midway through.  I ran a series of 8.4s in the 60m hurdles, and it was absolutely killing me!  It felt like every time we fixed something in practice, something new came up that prevented me from getting down to 8.3.  Even though – or maybe because – I initially wasn’t running quite as fast as I hoped to, I feel like I matured a lot over the course of the indoor season.  At both the Hilton Garden Invitational and at the USATF Indoor Championships, I competed against fields made up of professional runners.  Warming up next to, running against, and being able to keep up with pros did a lot for me.  It gave me more confidence in my abilities, and it taught me how to keep my composure and keep my nerves in check.  Although I was definitely frustrated with my times, I trusted my training and my coach.

At New Balance Nationals Indoor, it finally all paid off: I ran PRs in prelims, semis, and finals of the 60m hurdles.  Everything that I had been working on during practice – a faster reaction to the starting gun, a quicker trail leg – came together. My goal in the middle of the season was to get into the 8.3s, and I finished with 8.21.  Of course, I wasn’t satisfied with a second-place finish because I’m a competitive person, but I ran well and exceeded my goal.

While we were at NBN, I attended the information session for the Caribbean Scholastic Invitational with my parents and my coach.  I didn’t think it was possible, but it made me even more excited about the meet.  We were told the athletes that had been selected to compete would be contacted by the NSAF around April 1st.  After I returned home from Nationals on March 15th, all I could think about was whether or not my performance had been enough to make the team.  I checked my email constantly, hoping to see a message telling me I was selected, even though it was still the middle of March! 

It turns out that I was checking my email for nothing because my mom was the one who actually got the news!  I think it was March 25th, and I was sitting in my room doing homework when my mom started shouting for me to come downstairs right this second.  So I bolted down, sat next to her at the computer, and read the subject line of an email from Joy Kamani: “Caribbean Scholastic Invitational - Cuba 2015,” and the first word, “Congratulations!”  I completely lost it.  I kid you not, I ran around my kitchen screaming for a good ten minutes until I finally calmed down enough to call my coach and shout the good news into the phone.

Right now, my spring outdoor season is coming to an end, as our state meet is this weekend.  Even though I didn't race as much this season as I did during indoor, I've still had a great time.  I went to two major meets this year, the Taco Bell Classic and the Penn Relays, and though my times have been okay so far, I'm definitely ready to run faster.  We've picked up my training for the 400m hurdles, and there are always little things to fix in the 100m hurdles.  At practice, the focus for the 400m hurdles is attacking every hurdle and seamlessly switching legs if I need to.  For the 100H, I’m working on keeping my trail leg tight and pulling it through as fast as possible.  My school is going for our third state championship (NCISAA) in a row this weekend, so hopefully next time I'll be writing about our three-peat!

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