From Hampton to London

Olympics Runner Francena McCorory Reflects on the Support Gained from Growing Up in Hampton Roads

Hampton native Francena McCorory

At first, Francena McCorory wasn’t that interested in track.

She started running in the sixth grade with some of her friends because it was a group activity, an experience that they could share together. Though a coach in her physical education class noticed Francena’s budding talent and guided her toward the sport, it wasn’t until high school that she began running seriously. Right now, she is experiencing the culmination of her natural ability and hard work; she’s competing in the London Olympics in the 400-meter dash and the 4x400 meter relay.

Francena’s goals for London, she says, are twofold. “My second goal is to run a personal best in my time in the 400. My personal best right now is 50.02, and I plan to run 49.”

Her first goal? “I plan to bring home two medals.”

A Hampton native who attended Bethel High School, Francena McCorory chose Hampton University over a number of large institutions that were intent on recruiting her. “My main focus was to stay near my friends and family and the individuals that really supported me from day one,” she explains. She notes in particular the support of her biological mother and her godmother, whom she credits with shaping her into the woman she is today.

An attachment to the city of Hampton also fueled her desire to stay near home. Though Francena has traveled around the world, she notes the perfect “balance” of Hampton: a medium-sized city with an ideal pace of life. “Growing up in Hampton was great because most of the communities are very close knit,” a trait that undoubtedly contributed to the formation of her close group of friends and supporters. When Francena began competing seriously in track, she encountered a broader fan base in her hometown and in neighboring cities. “Hampton Roads has been a huge support every time I had a meet, every time I ran a big race, whether it was outside the country or inside the country. Newspapers like the Daily Press…reached out to the community and let them know what was going on. And Hampton University has been behind me, all the way, 100 percent, and I really appreciate it.”

To prepare for the Olympics, Francena has been “fine-tuning.” Her routine isn’t that different from normal, though she is lifting weights, and, of course, making sure that she eats right and gets enough rest.

While many athletes like to listen to energetic pump-up music before they race, Francena’s race preparation is a little more low-key. “I love Michael Jackson,” she declares. She listens to songs like “Human Nature” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” before she hits the track. She prays and reads the Bible, as well. And about 30 minutes before her races, Francena often takes some time just to unwind. “You can get kind of overwhelmed really quick just thinking about it, so I’ll just watch a movie or read a book.”

After the Olympics, Francena plans to “relax and take a long vacation.” She also will probably go to P.F. Chang’s for their Chang Spicy Chicken.

Further in the future, she plans to be a mortician. She first explains that the field has good job security, and then she smiles as she jokes, “And I won’t have to deal with complaining customers.” 

For a girl whose favorite track is Newport News’s Todd Stadium, the prospect of running at London’s Olympic Stadium must be simultaneously daunting and exhilarating. But Francena’s years of training and success have prepared her for the venture, and as she begins her races on August 3, she can be certain that the citizens of Hampton Roads will be cheering her on.