HBCU Track
Francena McCorory’s Journey from an HBCU to the Gold

HBCU Track
Francena McCorory’s Journey from an HBCU to the Gold

HBCU Track
Francena McCorory’s Journey from an HBCU to the Gold

Francena McCorory, track and field
Whitney Bronson, Sports Editorial Content Creator
By Whitney Bronson
Sports Editorial Content Creator
By Whitney Bronson
Sports Editorial Content Creator
By Whitney Bronson
Sports Editorial Content Creator

How Francena defied Historically Black College and University athletic stereotypes to become one of the best 400m sprinters in the world.

From the first time he saw Francena McCorory run as a high school freshman, Hampton University track and field coach Maurice Pierce knew he was watching a star in the making.

“She’s going to be one of the best runners in the world,” he said.

How Francena defied Historically Black College and University athletic stereotypes to become one of the best 400m sprinters in the world.

From the first time he saw Francena McCorory run as a high school freshman, Hampton University track and field coach Maurice Pierce knew he was watching a star in the making.

“She’s going to be one of the best runners in the world,” he said.

How Francena defied Historically Black College and University athletic stereotypes to become one of the best 400m sprinters in the world.

From the first time he saw Francena McCorory run as a high school freshman, Hampton University track and field coach Maurice Pierce knew he was watching a star in the making.

“She’s going to be one of the best runners in the world,” he said.

She’s going to be one of the best runners in the world.Coach Pierce

She’s going to be one of the best runners in the world.Coach Pierce

She’s going to be one of the best runners in the world.Coach Pierce

Coach Maurice Pierce, track and field, Hampton University

But for young Francena, a Hampton, Virginia native, track was just a way to pass time. As one of eight kids, she remembers how difficult it was for her single mother to supervise everyone while also working to provide for the family. It was her godmother, a former Hampton University track standout, who suggested that she give the sport a try.

“If I’m being transparent, I really didn’t have a passion for track. I actually did it to stay out of trouble because when I was in middle school, I was kind of hanging with the wrong crowd,” Francena says.

But for young Francena, a Hampton, Virginia native, track was just a way to pass time. As one of eight kids, she remembers how difficult it was for her single mother to supervise everyone while also working to provide for the family. It was her godmother, a former Hampton University track standout, who suggested that she give the sport a try.

“If I’m being transparent, I really didn’t have a passion for track. I actually did it to stay out of trouble because when I was in middle school, I was kind of hanging with the wrong crowd,” Francena says.

But for young Francena, a Hampton, Virginia native, track was just a way to pass time. As one of eight kids, she remembers how difficult it was for her single mother to supervise everyone while also working to provide for the family. It was her godmother, a former Hampton University track standout, who suggested that she give the sport a try.

“If I’m being transparent, I really didn’t have a passion for track. I actually did it to stay out of trouble because when I was in middle school, I was kind of hanging with the wrong crowd,” Francena says.

Francena McCorory, track and field

Coach Pierce didn’t let Francena’s nonchalance towards track bother him.

“Everybody said, ‘She really doesn’t like track, she’s just running because she’s fast. She doesn’t really love it yet.’ I said, ‘That’s all right, it’ll catch up with her’,” says Coach Pierce, who’s also the husband of her Godmother.

And eventually, Pierce was proven true. Francena developed a genuine love for the sport, went on to break high school records, and garnered attention from some of the biggest programs in the country.

But when it came down to choosing a program, she didn’t choose the schools with the biggest facilities, the biggest national stage or sponsorships. She chose to stay home — to follow in the footsteps of her godmother at Hampton University, under the tutelage of Coach Pierce.

This decision disappointed many, including her high school coach.

“A lot of people were very upset actually that I chose to go to Hampton University,” Francena says. “They were like, ‘Oh my god, you can go to such a bigger school, why do you want to go to Hampton?’”

Coach Pierce didn’t let Francena’s nonchalance towards track bother him.

“Everybody said, ‘She really doesn’t like track, she’s just running because she’s fast. She doesn’t really love it yet.’ I said, ‘That’s all right, it’ll catch up with her’,” says Coach Pierce, who’s also the husband of her Godmother.

And eventually, Pierce was proven true. Francena developed a genuine love for the sport, went on to break high school records, and garnered attention from some of the biggest programs in the country.

But when it came down to choosing a program, she didn’t choose the schools with the biggest facilities, the biggest national stage or sponsorships. She chose to stay home — to follow in the footsteps of her godmother at Hampton University, under the tutelage of Coach Pierce.

This decision disappointed many, including her high school coach.

“A lot of people were very upset actually that I chose to go to Hampton University,” Francena says. “They were like, ‘Oh my god, you can go to such a bigger school, why do you want to go to Hampton?’”

Coach Pierce didn’t let Francena’s nonchalance towards track bother him.

“Everybody said, ‘She really doesn’t like track, she’s just running because she’s fast. She doesn’t really love it yet.’ I said, ‘That’s all right, it’ll catch up with her’,” says Coach Pierce, who’s also the husband of her Godmother.

And eventually, Pierce was proven true. Francena developed a genuine love for the sport, went on to break high school records, and garnered attention from some of the biggest programs in the country.

But when it came down to choosing a program, she didn’t choose the schools with the biggest facilities, the biggest national stage or sponsorships. She chose to stay home — to follow in the footsteps of her godmother at Hampton University, under the tutelage of Coach Pierce.

This decision disappointed many, including her high school coach.

“A lot of people were very upset actually that I chose to go to Hampton University,” Francena says. “They were like, ‘Oh my god, you can go to such a bigger school, why do you want to go to Hampton?’”

They were like, ‘Oh my god you can go to such a bigger school, why do you want to go to hampton?’Francena

They were like, ‘Oh my god you can go to such a bigger school, why do you want to go to hampton?’Francena

They were like, ‘Oh my god you can go to such a bigger school, why do you want to go to hampton?’Francena

HBCUs struggle to keep up with big-name programs in terms of facilities, exposure and recruiting. Francena refused to let these factors deter her and was determined to prove the naysayers wrong.

“If you’re talented, you can go anywhere,” says Francena. “Just because you go to an HBCU doesn’t mean that you can’t be as successful.”

One thing people may have been overlooking when it came to Francena’s decision, is the long legacy of success in HBCU and Hampton track and field. Coach Pierce has won 33 conference championships at Hampton University, yet people continue to doubt HBCUs’ abilities to produce great athletes and successful programs, even with professionals like Francena consistently winning championships and medals.

But it wasn’t all just on the track for Francena. Attending an HBCU was the best time of her life and she tells everyone that she would go back to Hampton again if she had the chance.

“I loved it so much. I met my lifelong friends at Hampton and I just love the family atmosphere,” she says. “Hamptonians are always connected no matter where you go.”

When Francena went to the NCAA championship by herself, the whole school was rooting for her and watching the event. She says HBCU support is unmatched. Coach Pierce believes the family atmosphere of an HBCU was a big reason she went on to become a professional.

“I don’t think she would have had as much fun or enjoyed herself as much if she would have went to a larger school,” He says. “Track-wise they did have enough to keep her in shape and she still would have ran fast, but I don’t think she would have enjoyed her four-year journey.”

HBCUs struggle to keep up with big-name programs in terms of facilities, exposure and recruiting. Francena refused to let these factors deter her and was determined to prove the naysayers wrong.

“If you’re talented, you can go anywhere,” says Francena. “Just because you go to an HBCU doesn’t mean that you can’t be as successful.”

One thing people may have been overlooking when it came to Francena’s decision, is the long legacy of success in HBCU and Hampton track and field. Coach Pierce has won 33 conference championships at Hampton University, yet people continue to doubt HBCUs’ abilities to produce great athletes and successful programs, even with professionals like Francena consistently winning championships and medals.

But it wasn’t all just on the track for Francena. Attending an HBCU was the best time of her life and she tells everyone that she would go back to Hampton again if she had the chance.

“I loved it so much. I met my lifelong friends at Hampton and I just love the family atmosphere,” she says. “Hamptonians are always connected no matter where you go.”

When Francena went to the NCAA championship by herself, the whole school was rooting for her and watching the event. She says HBCU support is unmatched. Coach Pierce believes the family atmosphere of an HBCU was a big reason she went on to become a professional.

“I don’t think she would have had as much fun or enjoyed herself as much if she would have went to a larger school,” He says. “Track-wise they did have enough to keep her in shape and she still would have ran fast, but I don’t think she would have enjoyed her four-year journey.”

HBCUs struggle to keep up with big-name programs in terms of facilities, exposure and recruiting. Francena refused to let these factors deter her and was determined to prove the naysayers wrong.

“If you’re talented, you can go anywhere,” says Francena. “Just because you go to an HBCU doesn’t mean that you can’t be as successful.”

One thing people may have been overlooking when it came to Francena’s decision, is the long legacy of success in HBCU and Hampton track and field. Coach Pierce has won 33 conference championships at Hampton University, yet people continue to doubt HBCUs’ abilities to produce great athletes and successful programs, even with professionals like Francena consistently winning championships and medals.

But it wasn’t all just on the track for Francena. Attending an HBCU was the best time of her life and she tells everyone that she would go back to Hampton again if she had the chance.

“I loved it so much. I met my lifelong friends at Hampton and I just love the family atmosphere,” she says. “Hamptonians are always connected no matter where you go.”

When Francena went to the NCAA championship by herself, the whole school was rooting for her and watching the event. She says HBCU support is unmatched. Coach Pierce believes the family atmosphere of an HBCU was a big reason she went on to become a professional.

“I don’t think she would have had as much fun or enjoyed herself as much if she would have went to a larger school,” He says. “Track-wise they did have enough to keep her in shape and she still would have ran fast, but I don’t think she would have enjoyed her four-year journey.”

Francena, NCAA Women's Indoor Track and Field Championship, NCAA record

Francena had many memorable moments of success during her collegiate career. For Coach Pierce, one of those moments was the 2010 NCAA Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championship when Francena broke the NCAA record and the American record. Coach Pierce describes Francena dominating the race and after she crossed the finish line, the place was completely silent. Once everyone recovered from the wow factor and the realization of the great performance she gave, they all began cheering. But for Francena, the wins can be a little bittersweet.

“It sucks because every year they would act like, ‘What school are you from?’ And I’m like, “I won two years in a row, y’all know I go to Hampton University,’” Francena says. “I always had the motto like I’m going to bust y’all ass anyway from the HBCU.”

Francena had many memorable moments of success during her collegiate career. For Coach Pierce, one of those moments was the 2010 NCAA Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championship when Francena broke the NCAA record and the American record. Coach Pierce describes Francena dominating the race and after she crossed the finish line, the place was completely silent. Once everyone recovered from the wow factor and the realization of the great performance she gave, they all began cheering. But for Francena, the wins can be a little bittersweet.

“It sucks because every year they would act like, ‘What school are you from?’ And I’m like, “I won two years in a row, y’all know I go to Hampton University,’” Francena says. “I always had the motto like I’m going to bust y’all ass anyway from the HBCU.”

Francena had many memorable moments of success during her collegiate career. For Coach Pierce, one of those moments was the 2010 NCAA Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championship when Francena broke the NCAA record and the American record. Coach Pierce describes Francena dominating the race and after she crossed the finish line, the place was completely silent. Once everyone recovered from the wow factor and the realization of the great performance she gave, they all began cheering. But for Francena, the wins can be a little bittersweet.

“It sucks because every year they would act like, ‘What school are you from?’ And I’m like, “I won two years in a row, y’all know I go to Hampton University,’” Francena says. “I always had the motto like I’m going to bust y’all ass anyway from the HBCU.”

I always had the motto like I’m going to bust y’all ass anyway from the HBCU.Francena

I always had the motto like I’m going to bust y’all ass anyway from the HBCU.Francena

I always had the motto like I’m going to bust y’all ass anyway from the HBCU.Francena

Francena won three NCAA championships while at Hampton and after graduating, she would go on to win multiple world championships and two gold medals. Coach Pierce continues to train Francena and provide support as both a coach and father figure. Now their journey is coming full circle as Coach Pierce trains Francena for her last event in 2021.

But a new challenge appeared and after finding out the events were postponed due to COVID, both coach and athlete were devastated.

“My heart dropped,” Coach Pierce says. “All of my energy I had inside of me just completely was gone.” Pierce says the news sent many athletes and coaches through a depression stage where they didn’t know what to do. Considering Francena has been training for this summer since September 2019 and planned for it to be her swan song, she was also feeling discouraged.

“I did for a second think about quitting because I was just so down, but I was like ‘Hamptonians don’t quit,’” she says.

Francena didn’t quit in college when announcers didn’t give her the respect she deserved. She didn’t quit in 2012, after she made some mistakes in the 400 that cost her a medal. So she isn’t going to let COVID stop her either.

Francena won three NCAA championships while at Hampton and after graduating, she would go on to win multiple world championships and two gold medals. Coach Pierce continues to train Francena and provide support as both a coach and father figure. Now their journey is coming full circle as Coach Pierce trains Francena for her last event in 2021.

But a new challenge appeared and after finding out the events were postponed due to COVID, both coach and athlete were devastated.

“My heart dropped,” Coach Pierce says. “All of my energy I had inside of me just completely was gone.” Pierce says the news sent many athletes and coaches through a depression stage where they didn’t know what to do. Considering Francena has been training for this summer since September 2019 and planned for it to be her swan song, she was also feeling discouraged.

“I did for a second think about quitting because I was just so down, but I was like ‘Hamptonians don’t quit,’” she says.

Francena didn’t quit in college when announcers didn’t give her the respect she deserved. She didn’t quit in 2012, after she made some mistakes in the 400 that cost her a medal. So she isn’t going to let COVID stop her either.

Francena won three NCAA championships while at Hampton and after graduating, she would go on to win multiple world championships and two gold medals. Coach Pierce continues to train Francena and provide support as both a coach and father figure. Now their journey is coming full circle as Coach Pierce trains Francena for her last event in 2021.

But a new challenge appeared and after finding out the events were postponed due to COVID, both coach and athlete were devastated.

“My heart dropped,” Coach Pierce says. “All of my energy I had inside of me just completely was gone.” Pierce says the news sent many athletes and coaches through a depression stage where they didn’t know what to do. Considering Francena has been training for this summer since September 2019 and planned for it to be her swan song, she was also feeling discouraged.

“I did for a second think about quitting because I was just so down, but I was like ‘Hamptonians don’t quit,’” she says.

Francena didn’t quit in college when announcers didn’t give her the respect she deserved. She didn’t quit in 2012, after she made some mistakes in the 400 that cost her a medal. So she isn’t going to let COVID stop her either.

working out, home gym, training, COVID

Rather than waiting for the gyms to open back up, Francena and her colleagues built one from scratch in her garage — complete with weights and everything she needs to prepare for 2021. As coach Pierce creates the regimen, Francena puts in work both solo and with her training partners. It’s a new world training under COVID regulations.

“Only two of my training partners come and we wipe down everything. We have masks on so we could barely breathe. It’s definitely different,” Francena says. “Sometimes I just sit and laugh like I cannot believe we’re really doing this, but it’s just motivation to keep pushing and getting it done.”

Of course, getting it done means getting up at 6 a.m. to put in work. And pretty much the only thing that gets her motivated at the crack of dawn is music. Once the headphones are in and the music starts, she has her eyes on the prize.

“I’m not a morning person, so it kind of helps me get in the zone and feel like it’s not 6 a.m. anymore,” she says.

Rather than waiting for the gyms to open back up, Francena and her colleagues built one from scratch in her garage — complete with weights and everything she needs to prepare for 2021. As coach Pierce creates the regimen, Francena puts in work both solo and with her training partners. It’s a new world training under COVID regulations.

“Only two of my training partners come and we wipe down everything. We have masks on so we could barely breathe. It’s definitely different,” Francena says. “Sometimes I just sit and laugh like I cannot believe we’re really doing this, but it’s just motivation to keep pushing and getting it done.”

Of course, getting it done means getting up at 6 a.m. to put in work. And pretty much the only thing that gets her motivated at the crack of dawn is music. Once the headphones are in and the music starts, she has her eyes on the prize.

“I’m not a morning person, so it kind of helps me get in the zone and feel like it’s not 6 a.m. anymore,” she says.

Rather than waiting for the gyms to open back up, Francena and her colleagues built one from scratch in her garage — complete with weights and everything she needs to prepare for 2021. As coach Pierce creates the regimen, Francena puts in work both solo and with her training partners. It’s a new world training under COVID regulations.

“Only two of my training partners come and we wipe down everything. We have masks on so we could barely breathe. It’s definitely different,” Francena says. “Sometimes I just sit and laugh like I cannot believe we’re really doing this, but it’s just motivation to keep pushing and getting it done.”

Of course, getting it done means getting up at 6 a.m. to put in work. And pretty much the only thing that gets her motivated at the crack of dawn is music. Once the headphones are in and the music starts, she has her eyes on the prize.

“I’m not a morning person, so it kind of helps me get in the zone and feel like it’s not 6 a.m. anymore,” she says.

I didn’t come this far not to make it. I didn’t come this far not to reach my dreams.Francena

I didn’t come this far not to make it. I didn’t come this far not to reach my dreams.Francena

I didn’t come this far not to make it. I didn’t come this far not to reach my dreams.Francena

Despite all of the changes (and early morning workouts), Francena keeps pushing and doesn’t give up. She’s a testament to the power of HBCU athletics — and she’s determined to bring home gold one last time in 2021.

“I didn’t come this far not to make it,” she says. “I didn’t come this far not to reach my dream.”

Despite all of the changes (and early morning workouts), Francena keeps pushing and doesn’t give up. She’s a testament to the power of HBCU athletics — and she’s determined to bring home gold one last time in 2021.

“I didn’t come this far not to make it,” she says. “I didn’t come this far not to reach my dream.”

Despite all of the changes (and early morning workouts), Francena keeps pushing and doesn’t give up. She’s a testament to the power of HBCU athletics — and she’s determined to bring home gold one last time in 2021.

“I didn’t come this far not to make it,” she says. “I didn’t come this far not to reach my dream.”