In the women’s 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin were the stars. It wasn’t surprising.
Muhammad won gold in Rio de Janeiro and is the reigning world champion. McLaughlin took silver at the world championships. At trials, McLaughlin edged Muhammad in the 400 hurdles and broke the world record, but the third runner came in from the outside and surprised the field to earn the final American spot for Tokyo.
Anna Cockrell had made the Olympic team, not long after she considered giving up track.
“I got to a point in 2018, 2019 where I wasn't sure I wanted to do this anymore. During COVID, I took a lot of time off,” Cockrell said after her race. “I eventually rediscovered my love for track, and just moving for the sake of moving, and during COVID rediscovering my love for the sport is what has gotten me through this whole season.
“I'm here because I love it, because I'm good at it. I love it, but it's not what defines me.”
If Cockrell had given up track, she had plenty of other interests to pursue.
In her five years as a student-athlete at USC, she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in political science and a master’s degree in public policy. In 2018, she worked on two political campaigns: Dianne Feinstein’s for senate reelection and Marshall Tuck’s for California State superintendent.
One thing she remembered as she qualified for the Olympics was a promise she made to her grandfather after the 2016 Olympic Trials.
“In 2016, I didn’t even make the final. I didn't make it through the semis and I bawled my eyes out,” she said. “I called my grandfather and told him I will be here next time. He passed away a few months later, but I kept my promise. I'm so excited. I'm so happy.”
The hard work has paid off. Cockrell has shaved a second and a half off her 400 hurdles time since 2016. She won the NCAA titles for both the 100 and 400 hurdles in 2021 just a few weeks before the Olympic Trials.
In between, she graduated from USC and added the initials “MPP” after her name to show her education achievement. Then on June 28, she got to add one more title to her name: