To write an article about Jackson High Senior Cierra Pryor – the athlete – doesn’t do her justice and, frankly, it’s not much of a challenge.
Google her name and the list of athletic accomplishments is amazing. Watch her run around the track at the James R. Selby Track & Field Classic, where she is now an unprecedented four-time winner of the Outstanding Female Performer Award and it’s breathtaking. She is that fluid, that smooth, that impressive… Cierra doesn’t enter track meets – she dominates them. And when faced with an obstacle (or a hurdle to use a track term) she clears it.
Cierra’s right foot is her ‘jump foot,’ meaning when she runs the long jump (in which she holds the state record) she goes airborne off that right foot. During the basketball season this winter she severely sprained the ligaments in her right ankle, making it difficult to get that dynamic lift. Undaunted, Cierra simply started jumping off her left foot. It’s a change that the untrained eye would never notice, but to an athlete it’s significant. To Cierra, it was simply an obstacle that needed to be overcome. ‘Bad right foot? Use the left one. That’s why I have two.’
“My sister Jaelynn has really been someone I’ve looked up too,” Cierra said. “No matter what happens, she just keeps moving forward. When she was a senior in high school she was injured and the doctors said she’d be out for the entire year. Instead she just refused to stay down and was back in three months. I love that attitude. Always look forward…”
Jaelynn Pryor, in 2008 and 2009, is the last female to win the Outstanding Female Performer Award at the Selby before Cierra.
But there is so much more about this young lady than a list of athletic accomplishments – as impressive as they are.
“People don’t know that Cierra was not a sports nut when she was little,” her dad, Corey Pryor said. “She liked playing with dolls and all of those things. Definitely a girly-girl… Her mother and I sort of made her get involved by signing her up to play soccer. Once she got out on the soccer field, though, she just took off. She started running all over the place – up and down the field – and I said ‘man, we need to get her out on the track.’”
And Corey should know.
He was the Outstanding Male Performer at the Selby in 1986 and 1987, and went on to play football and earn All-Big Ten Honors in track and field at Michigan State. He’s also her coach.
“Off the playing field, no matter the sport, Cierra is very humble, but once you get her out on the track or the basketball court, she is fiercely competitive,” Corey said. “But what makes her unique is that she knows only through hard work will she get better, and she always gives that effort.”
Now, those are nice things to say about ones’ daughter or a member of a track and field team. But what do they really tell us about Cierra? After all, most athletes hate to lose and the really good ones know the effort it takes to stay on top. Cierra is, of course, a phenomenal athlete and recently signed a Letter-of-Intent to compete in track and field at Michigan State.
But what about the nuts and bolts…? What about the little things that people might not know…?
For instance, did you know when Cierra was about three years old she sat on the family couch, wrapped in a blanket, and cried for hours because Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack Dawson character died in the movie Titanic? Did you know that she loves action and comedy movies but wants nothing to do with horror? How many people know she likes something called a peanut butter parfait with whipped cream and no cherry, and that she made sure I spelled ‘parfait’ correctly before we could move on? That’s attention to detail.
I asked her what she thought about forever being the benchmark at the Selby Classic. I asked her if she understood just yet that no one would ever be able to top her performance at the area’s premier track and field event. After all, unless they add a fifth year of high school, there’s nothing higher than four-for-four.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Cierra said. “I’m very honored and also humbled by it all. But I try not to look back, if I can – even now. I try to always look forward.”
Look forward to the ultimate in track and field competition, perhaps?
“My dream is to run in the Olympics,” Cierra said. “If I’m going to dream big, I’m going to dream REAL big. And if I’m able to run in the Olympics one day, I want to win.”
The truly great athletes – the ones who are really are special in their sport – sometimes make it look so easy. But behind that façade are fierce competitors whose hard work and passion rival their natural talent. Cierra Pryor is one of those athletes – but she’s also much more.
Standing along the fence at Withington Stadium on a cloudy and humid afternoon, listening to her talk about how far she’s come and just how much farther she yearns to go, I wouldn’t want to bet against her. She’s talented, determined, passionate and focused… That’s a four-peat even more impressive than her run at the Selby. And one that will carry her to victory long after her days of athletic competition are behind her.