Growing Every Day: Quanera Hayes Basks In Being A Mom And An Elite Athlete
by Bob Reinert
Quanera Hayes celebrates with her son, Demetrius, after finishing first in the women's 400-meter final at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials on June 20, 2021 in Eugene, Ore.
If her 3-year-old son Demetrius one day wants to follow his mother into the track and field world, that will be fine with Quanera Hayes. But that decision will be his alone and not the result of any pressure from the 2020 U.S. Olympian.
“Prayerfully, he wants to run, but that’s just nothing that I’m going to push him to do,” Hayes said. “We put him in everything else other than track because I want him to grow a love for it himself and take it seriously for himself.”
The 30-year-old Hayes, who placed seventh in the 400-meter last year in Tokyo and was part of a winning relay team at the 2017 world championships, began with the sport as a middle schooler, but she wasn’t pushed into it.
“It was just something that I did for fun,” Hayes recalled. “It was never like a dream to go to the Olympics. I didn’t even know what the Olympics was, as far as like track and field. It was just something I did with my friends.
“That was the only thing I was willing to do because I don’t like contact sports.”
Having said that, Hayes, of Dillon, South Carolina, does recognize a budding athlete when she sees one.
“Oh, gosh, yes,” she said. “Literally, from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to sleep, he is literally on full throttle. And he’s super-fast. He’s learning how to get out of the blocks. He knows how to put one foot on each side, and he gets down into a set position and everything. He’s definitely got it in him.
“The way his energy is is just … so draining at times, especially on the weekends when he’s home all day. We literally go to the park every single weekend so he can run at least a little bit.”
As a professional athlete, Hayes had busy days even before Demetrius was born, so things haven’t slowed down one bit as he’s gotten older.
“I wouldn’t say it’s gotten any easier,” Hayes said. “I really just grow as he grows. I have to learn a little bit more patience each day and how I respond to certain things because he’s quite the daring little child.
“We’re trying to let him be free and independent but also learn how to be cautious at the same time. With each new phase that he goes through as he gets older, it’s always a learning experience. So, we’re not going backwards, but it’s not getting any easier.”
Quanera Hayes celebrates after winning the women's 400-meter final at the 2021 Weltklasse Zurich on Sept. 9, 2021 in Zurich.
Hayes acknowledged that Demetrius is a bit young to fully understand what his mother does for a living.
“He’s too young to understand that I’m on the (level) that I’m on, that I’m an elite athlete,” Hayes said. “He doesn’t get the magnitude of what I do, but he does get that I’m a runner. He does enjoy watching me run.
“He loves to be at track meets because he loves to be outside, but he doesn’t really understand that this is something that I do as a living, that this is actually my job, and I get paid for this.”
Certainly, his awareness of her status as a world-class athlete will grow in the coming years.
“I’m excited for him … when he gets to that age when he can go and brag to his little friends about who his mom is and what I’ve done,” Hayes said. “He’s a boy, so you never know how he’s going to respond to it or how he might act.
“I wasn’t as active as he is. He has me beat times 10. He’s a very smart child. He picks up things very quickly.”
Hayes, who is recovering from a slight hamstring injury she suffered in early April, is now training for the U.S. outdoor championships June 23-26 and the world outdoor championships July 15-24. Both events will take place in Eugene, Oregon. The worlds are coming to the U.S. for the first time.
Demetrius will probably be on hand to watch his mother at both major events — presuming she qualifies for the latter.
“Training is going good,” Hayes said. “I’m a lot stronger now than I was before I got injured. It’s on a different level now. It’s really gone well. I haven’t lost anything.
“It was just like a little tweak here that I never experienced before. We’re in a good space right now. In practice, I’m running times that I have not (run) in years. It kind of worked out.”
Meanwhile, Hayes is working to achieve a balance in her life and to attend to Demetrius’s needs.
“It’s been a fun experience,” Hayes said. “I’m learning a lot about myself as a mom, how to be a better mom every day.
“I’m just trying to be the best mom I can be. I’m not perfect, but I’m growing every day. I’m giving him the best that I can. I want him to enjoy life.”
Bob Reinert spent 17 years writing sports for The Boston Globe. He also served as a sports information director at Saint Anselm College and Phillips Exeter Academy. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.