2 years after giving birth to her son, Hope Mills native Quanera Hayes’ comeback takes her to Olympics

Japan 2020

TOKYO (WNCN) – Teddy Roosevelt once said “nothing worth having comes easy.”

Quanera Hayes knows this all too well. During her collegiate career at Livingstone, her Blue Bears weren’t given an inch. It didn’t matter. She earned it all. She’s a 12-time NCAA All-American, four-time NCAA Outdoor Track Champion, and an eight-time school record holder.

She had a saying for those that overlooked the CIAA.

“People will look at a Division II school as not being elite athletes,” said Quanera Hayes. “I would always say you can’t put a division on speed.”

After graduating, Hayes won the 400-meter sprint title at the U.S outdoor championships in 2017, the 4-by-4 at the Worlds, and again in 2018 at the world indoors.

The only thing that slowed her down was the birth of her son, Demetrious, in 2019. Track wasn’t abandoned, just put on hold. When she picked it back up, well, remember what Roosevelt said.

“I had no power coming out of the blocks. Running around the track was just hard for me completing a workout was just so tough,” said Hayes. “My body just did not want to run, and everything felt different — even walking, to say the least, felt really different.”

The physical toll of getting back into shape was tame compared to the mental struggle.

“There would be times when I would stop in the middle of practice and I would just start crying. I would have to walk over by myself and I would just cry. Cry because I could not finish a 600,” Hayes said.

“I would have a full-on panic attack in the middle of my run and I would have to stop.

“It was tough so I would literally have to pray my way through those days, and just when I would go home and see my son, I was like, ‘OK, Quanera, it’s another day.’”

With the support of her coach, loved ones, and her faith, it wasn’t long before Hayes regained form and steadily shaved time off her sprints.

“I can honestly say that I’m a lot stronger now than I was before I had my son,” Hayes said. “I can take a lot more now.”

She put her new skills on full display this June winning the 400, securing her trip to the Olympics and sharing the moment with her son. To end her tale here would be acceptable. But she wants more. The struggle made her strong in turn making a possible medal that much sweeter. She’s more than ready. When asked about expectations some of her Livingstone swagger snuck out in the answer.

“It’s time to go harder than before because I know once I get to the Olympics the competition is going to be even more fierce,” said Hayes. “I’m going to have to put it down.”

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