I'm a girly girl. I put on eyelashes and a full face of makeup when I go out to a track meet. That's just me, and I'm having fun with it.”
Why pose for the Body Issue?
It wasn't an easy decision. I was kind of worried, but then I just decided that I liked the story behind this issue: It's a celebration of athletes' bodies and all the different shapes and sizes that we athletes come in.
How did the nickname "400 Meter Diva" come about?
In my freshman year of college we went to Penn Relays and our coach asked me to do an interview. The last thing I said was, "The girls on our team just look like divas." And the next day the story ran as: Gamecock Divas come to Philly. So Coach Frye had outfits made that said "Gamecock Divas" and, naturally, 400 Diva came from there.
I embrace it. I'm a girly girl. I put on eyelashes and a full face of makeup when I go out to a track meet. That's just me, and I'm having fun with it.
Have you ever felt self-conscious?
I didn't just wake up feeling this confident. I was teased a lot in junior high school and high school. I started track at 9, and had a runner's body at an early age. I was stronger than some of the boys in class. Plus, I didn't have the largest chest, so I got a lot of, "You look like a boy!" It bothered me a little bit, but I never lashed out.
My mom would always tell me I was beautiful. She was a runner, too, and she'd say, "Your body structure is a lot like mine at your age." I always thought my mom was the most beautiful person in the world.
Then I got to the age where all that stuff -- what people thought -- didn't matter. I realized teasing me was just other people expressing their own insecurities.
When did you settle into your own skin?
My junior and senior years of high school. That's when I stopped feeling self-conscious. I went to school in Manhattan, and I was exposed to fashion and taking risks. I started coming out of my shell and feeling like it was OK to look this way. At that time, I had also won gold in world juniors. Seeing other girls who looked like me at the event made a big difference; it opened my eyes.
What's your favorite thing about your body?
I love my six-pack and my arms. I love wearing tank tops and getting compliments on my shoulders. I like that I'm toned, but still look like a woman. I'm fit and I'm healthy. But it's not like I'm walking down the street flashing my six-pack and saying, "Hey, look at me!" I'm not spending hours on end doing crunches and ab work. Wearing shorts during practice or a bikini at the pool is about the extent of my showing off.
-- Interview by Morty Ain