Livingstone College alumna Quanera Hayes makes U.S. Olympic Team after first-place finish in 400-meter race

Published 7:54 pm Monday, June 21, 2021

Livingstone College News Service

SALISBURY — Livingstone College alumna and track star Quanera Hayes is headed to the Tokyo Olympics after finishing first, with a time of 49.78 seconds, in the 400-meter race during the U.S. Olympic Team Trials Sunday in Oregon.

The 2015 Livingstone College graduate and Hope Mills native beat Olympic champion Allyson Felix, who came in second at 50.2 seconds. Wadeline Jonathas rounded out the top three. All three women qualified for a spot at the Tokyo Olympics next month. Hayes’ win also makes her the national champion.

Justin Davis, Livingstone track coach, said he was glued to the TV all weekend for the Olympic Trials, cheering on his former student-athlete. 

“I have followed Quanera’s career extensively since she left Livingstone. I have always known she would make an Olympic team,” Davis said. “She has the experience because I was able to travel with her to two USA Outdoor Championships while she was a Blue Bear.”

In an interview posted by HBCU Gameday after advancing to the final round, Hayes was asked what it would mean to represent Livingstone College at the Olympics.

“Honestly, it would mean everything. And for me, it wouldn’t be just representing Livingstone College, it would be representing the CIAA and all Division II schools,” Hayes said. “A lot of people out here — they’re from HBCUs — but I’m literally the only one from a Division II school. So it’s much bigger than me just representing HBCUs, it’s me representing Division II as well. And letting them know, hey, just because we’re in Division II, people don’t look at us as being one of the best or top-tier athletes. But, look where I am. Look how far I’ve gotten coming from a Division II school. So it’s much bigger than the HBCU thing. That’s just a bonus.”

Davis said Hayes’ win shows that athletes don’t have to go the biggest and most-recognized college or university to achieve greatness.

“If you have talent, drive and motivation, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to,” he said.

Davis recruited Hayes from Cumberland County’s Grey’s Creek High School in 2010. She redshirted her freshman year and competed at Livingstone from 2011 to 2015. Davis as well as Tim Dunlap, sprinting coach at the time, served as her coaches.

“When I first saw Quanera, I knew that she was different because she was so far ahead of all the competition she had in high school,” Davis said.

When Hayes came to Livingstone, she was able to run against the men’s team in practice and always right there with them, he said. Her main events were the 200 and 400 meters, but she also competed in the 100 meters, in relay and cross country.

Her collegiate personal bests times were 11.99 seconds in the 100 meters; 23.29 in the 200 meters; and 51.54 in the 400 meters.

She was a 12-time NCAA All-American — indoor and outdoor track; a four-time NCAA Outdoor Track Champion (three times in 400 meters and once in the 200 meters); an eight-time school record holder; and USTFCCCA (US Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association) Athlete of the Year Indoor and Outdoor.

“Livingstone College is proud of Quanera Hayes and honored that she is a part of the Blue Bear family,” said Livingstone President Dr. Jimmy R. Jenkins Sr. “She is a testament to the type of student-athletes we produce and is proof that with drive, tenacity and perseverance, success will chase you down no matter where you start running. I want to commend her for the exposure she is giving to the CIAA, to Division II schools and especially to Livingstone College, where defying the odds is our business.”

In June 2017, Hayes won the 400 meter sprint title at the U.S.A. track and field outdoor championship in Sacramento, California, posting the fastest time in the event in the world during that season at 49.72 seconds.

Then in August, 2017, Hayes, along with Allyson Felix, Shakima Wimbley and Phyllis Francis, represented Team USA and won the 4×400 meter at the IAAF World Championships. The team won by the largest margin of victory in world championships history – male or female – to capture the first Team USA gold medal in the event since 2011.