As Bruce Arians promised, virtually every TV inside the AdventHealth Training Center on Monday morning was tuned to the track and field portion of the Olympics.
What played out on the screens was the best practice precursor Arians could have hoped for.
Former USC national champion Anna Cockrell, youngest sister of veteran Bucs defensive back Ross Cockrell, used a dramatic final kick to place second in her heat in the women’s 400-meter hurdles semifinals and earn a spot in Wednesday’s finals (Tuesday evening, Tampa time).
Her brother followed with a three-interception day at practice, most of which was held indoors due to the threat of lightning.
“We gave a game ball to mom and dad after practice,” Arians said. “The kids are what they’re supposed to be, but mom and dad did a hell of a job raising them, that’s for sure.”
With Cockrell and most of his teammates watching inside a meeting room, the hurdlers took their respective starting blocks in an evening downpour inside Japan National Stadium in Tokyo. Running in Lane 8, Cockrell — the 2021 NCAA champion in the 100- and 400-meter hurdles — overtook Ukraine’s Viktoriya Tkachuk in the final few meters for the second-place finish in 54.17 seconds.
“She gutted it out at the end,” Cockrell said. “My heart was pounding through my chest, I was sweating just watching her run. It was hard for me to sleep last night, so I hope she got some rest.”
Tkachuk’s time (54.25) also earned her a finals spot. Femke Bol of the Netherlands, one of the world’s premier competitors in the event, easily won the heat (53.91).
“It was awesome, man, with us holding our breath,” Arians said. “It was such a close race and she finished so strong and got in there, I mean the room exploded. Really, really happy for (Cockrell).”
The finals are set for Tuesday at 10:30 p.m., which is late Wednesday morning in Tokyo. Arians said the Bucs won’t hold a similar watch party because the race is right before team curfew.
“Today would be tough to beat anyway,” Arians said.
Cockrell said he’ll likely watch from the team hotel. His parents, Kieth and Serena, and younger sister Ciera (a law school student) are expected to watch together from the family home in Charlotte, N.C. A watch party likely will be set up for his maternal grandmother in Louisiana, he added.
“Being able to watch my sister run with this team, with this family, it just was amazing,” Cockrell said.
“It was the biggest race of her life, and to see her go out and perform as well as she did in adverse weather and adverse situations, then go out to practice and be able to do my thing, I was just feeling the magic that she had. I think she passed it along to me.”
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