WINSTON-SALEM – A highly-decorated performer in indoor and outdoor track on the collegiate level, Cierra Thompson Pridgen gets the opportunity to share her experience with future student-athletes.
At her alma mater, no less.
Pridgen was named the new assistant women’s track coach at Winston-Salem State University.
The Rams lost their head coach and their assistant took over the program during the early stages of the COVID pandemic. They reached out to Pridgen, who assisted with the girls returning to campus.
“I wasn’t looking for a job at the time, but was interested,” Pridgen said. “It means everything to me. I’m really speechless when I talk about it. I’m still in awe when I can actually sit down and think about it. Really a blessing they chose me out of everyone [who applied] without any experience.
“Them trusting me since I was a former student-athlete is probably what speaks most in that nature.”
Pridgen graduated cum laude in 2020 with a bachelor of health science degree in healthcare management. That came after she collected numerous accolades as one of the Rams’ top sprinters on the indoor and outdoor scene.
The Southern Wayne alumna led WSSU to a pair of Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association outdoor track and field titles. In 2017 and 2020, she earned All-American honors.
She is a four-time all-Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association pick.
Head coach Antonio Wells gushed over having a former Ram join his staff.
“She has committed completely to the vision of the program and institution in her role as an assistant coach,” said Wells, whose team shared the 2022 CIAA crown with Fayetteville State. “It is so important to have coaches that can communicate and collaborate with the common goals for the program. I look forward to her growth and progress on this side of track and field.”
Not surprisingly, Pridgen will coach the team’s sprinters and hurdlers.
She’ll assist Wells in day-to-day operations, participate in recruiting, assist in meet management, schedule practices and help the girls with anything that they need while on campus.
Pridgen says WSSU has a one-of-a-kind program.
“We’re very personable, very relatable [as coaches],” said Pridgen, who is expecting her first child, a boy, in September. “We don’t just look for speed or athletic ability, but we look for the overall student-athlete because that is what will keep them eligible to run. We like to diversify, put an athlete where they can be successful in any event they do.
“We’re a very open program, very fun, light-hearted. The biggest thing is the experience you get as a student-athlete coming to WSSU, which is one of the best [track programs] that you will find at an HBCU (historically Black college and university).”