The Grind, presented by Bank of Clarendon: Manning High's Frierson overcomes adversity to thrive on and off the track


When Manning High School's Delaney Frierson stepped on the track at the SCHSL 3A state meet on May 20, she was just happy to be there.

That may be surprising to hear from the reigning 400m hurdles state champion, who also finished runner-up in the 100m hurdles the year before, but just getting back to Lower Richland for that meet was an accomplishment for Delaney. Like the hurdles in front of her, she had to clear adversity just to get back on that stage.


Before she ever stepped foot on a track, Delaney had to learn about the hurdles that life can place before a person.

During Delaney's early years, her mom, Taningra, battled breast cancer. A long battle that stopped and started again eventually took Taningra's life when Delaney was just 2 1/2. Delaney's brother, Peyton, was still an infant who was born several months premature.

So, Delaney was raised by her namesake, her grandmother, Delaney Kay Frierson, and her grandfather, WJ Frierson. The pair would quickly shed the title of grandma and grandpa and serve as Delaney and Peyton's parents, legally adopting their grandchildren.

"Her mother's passing away was a heartbreak, but her being in our family was a non-issue as far as we were concerned because her mom had gifted those children to us as we were trying to encourage her to continue to live," Delaney Kay said. "Her mother was number two out of five. Delaney and her brother were like the do-overs, second chances. Wherever we thought we may have errored or could have done better, we pulled everything we could into these two, you know, not leaving anything on the table."

While losing your mother at a young age is difficult for any child, Delaney only felt love and support from her parents.

"It was hard. My grandparents always did the best they could to raise me and my brother," Delaney said. "It was always great. Anything I wanted to do, they supported me, even with track. They put me in AAU. My parents [grandparents] have just always been supportive; they always had our back. They always took our best interest at heart, even if it was something they didn't really want us to do.

"It was more of, 'If my child loves it, and they're thriving in it, we're gonna help you support it and take it to the best level.' My mama [grandmother] said, 'It's not really what we want. It's all about what y'all want, and as long as you're thriving and doing the best that you can and have God first and put everything above to get where you need to be, you'll always succeed.'"


Delaney didn't really get into sports until middle school. She started with cheerleading but found a talent for running under peculiar circumstances.

WJ is the pastor at Lovely Hill Baptist Church in Holly Hill. One Saturday, the family was enjoying a church picnic when Delaney ran into an overeager pet.

"This playful little dog came up to Delaney, and she was afraid of it, so she started running and the dog ran after her and I ran after the dog, but she was able to escape," Delaney Kay recalled. "The dog wasn't gonna bite her - I later learned - but she was afraid of him and she could really run, and we were like, 'Gosh.'

Soon after, she joined the track team at Manning. As a seventh-grader, she was already running on varsity and earned a trip to the lower state meet. As an eighth-grader, she made her way to the podium at state. She ran on the Lady Monarch 4x100 squad that took home the 3A state title, while also finishing eighth in the 400 hurdles, an event she picked up because of the leaping ability she developed as a cheerleader."

"Even though we're on the same team, I still have a competitive spirit, so seeing me developing, getting faster than some of the older girls, even though they were supportive and I always supported them, it was like, 'Wow, you're really doing the thing,'" Delaney said of her early success. "And then eighth-grade year, winning the state championship in the 4x1 and being eighth in the state in the 400 hurdles, it was like, 'Wow, I'm really gifted for this.'"

The bar was set high for Delaney right off the bat, but she learned to never expect history to repeat itself.

"When you win state championships, you've always got to prepare for the next year. It would make you feel good, but then you've got to also remember, people are coming for you," Delaney said. "With that, you've got to work hard. Even though you may win a state championship, you may not win another one. It feels good to win, but you've got to always work hard so you can win again."


Despite a freshman year erased by COVID-19, Delaney continued to improve. Everything fell into place her junior season, even if the year came with its own adversity.

Delaney battled knee injuries throughout the season last year. She could hear her knees popping at times as she ran the hurdles. With some help from the training staff, she persevered and qualified for state in both the 400m and 100m hurdles.

But she did much more than qualify.

She started the day with a second-place finish in the 100m hurdles, and Delaney Kay expected that to be the highlight of the afternoon.

"She got second place, and we were excited because she's the second-fastest 100 hurdler in 3A in the state," Delaney Kay said. "While we were thanking God for that victory, she did the 400, and when she won the 400, we were just beside ourselves."

Delaney was shocked, too. She ran in Lane 1 and felt like she was behind the eight ball from the start, as the outside of the track is just a touch longer than the other lanes. That didn't stop her, however, as she crossed the finish line in first place. It was her favorite individual moment of her high school career, but it's far from the only important detail.

"It's the state championship," Delaney said of her favorite memory. "But it's also the relationships that I built, the support from the coaches, the love for my team. It's a family."


Delaney felt like she was gaining some great momentum. She was talking with college coaches and gearing up for her final season at Manning when tragedy struck in March.

"I was coming back from Sumter, and I was going down Old Georgetown Road. As I was trying to pass another, a car began speeding towards me, and I ran off the road into a light pole," Delaney recalled. "It was such a scary time. I blacked out. The police officer told my mom, 'She wasn't supposed to live through that.'

"I had seat belt burns on me. I had bad back pains. I couldn't move for a couple of days, so I never really thought I would get out on the track."

She tried to get back on the track immediately. It wasn't her best idea.

"I literally got in a car accident right before a meet, and then because of my love for track, I was injured and ran at the meet," Delaney admitted. "That's how bad I love track. But my doctor said, 'You got to sit down, you got to rest.'"

So, Delaney rested.

The Manning senior still came out to practice every day and supported her teammates, but she was itching to get back out there herself.

"I felt defeated, but I just prayed and I said, 'I'm gonna get better. I'm gonna work hard,' and I came out here on this track dedicated every single day, working hard, jumping over these hurdles," Delaney said. "I went to get massages, some therapy, to make sure that I was OK, constantly checking with my doctor and my athletic trainer to get better so I could come back."

Eventually, with one meet left before the Region VII-3A meet, she suited up. She only properly returned to practice that week, but she wanted to get a competitive race in before the journey to the state meet began.

"It was very exciting. I was also a little nervous with my times not being usually where they are," Delaney said. "I was kinda a little rocky about the situation, but I said, 'I'm gonna work hard. I'm gonna get my times down.' Which I did. I feel like I succeeded."

Early on, Delaney felt the weight of the expectations placed upon her as a defending state champion. It was a difficult mental hurdle to clear at first.

"I was like, 'I have to win state. I have to do this.' Then I went to lower state in the event that I won state in, I fell over a hurdle and didn't even qualify," Delaney said of the 100m hurdles. "My pride was very hurt. But I qualified for state (in the 400m hurdles), and that was an accomplishment enough for me."

Delaney ran the 400m hurdles at the 3A state meet on May 20 and finished eighth. After everything she went through, it was more than enough for her.

"I felt like I succeeded this year," Delaney said. "It may not have been first place but, for me, being eighth in the state is a very good progression from not running at all."

Delaney Kay was supportive through the process of recovery but also joked, "God loves other people, too; you can't win everything."


Delaney is a star on the track, but she stays very busy away from the sport.

She was the senior class president, opening last week's graduation ceremony at Manning High. She also took part in the FFA, FBLA and JAG programs at the school while helping at her father's church.

"It's really what God wants us to do," Delaney said of her busy life outside of track. "He wants us to go out and help others, he wants us to bring people to him, so I just try to kind of stay in my community because Manning is just so supportive. I love to give back to my community."

Track is a very individual sport at times, but Delaney feels the team environment is important. When she's not actively running, her cheerleader instincts kick in.

"I'm forever supportive. I literally stand at the finish line, or I stand on this back stretch of the 100 for anybody running their race, and I'm screaming and hollering the loudest," Delaney said. "People are staring at me, and I do not care because I'm going to support my team."


Delaney plans to continue her track career, but she's still in the process of deciding on her future school. She graduated from Manning High last week, so now her focus turns to making that decision.

"It's really hard," Delaney said of recruitment. "It's hard trying to decide which school you're going to go to, especially with all my other peers saying, 'Hey I'm gonna go to this school.' It's like 'OK, so I know what I want to do. I just need to know where I'm gonna do it.' It's hard, but it's a fun experience visiting colleges, talking to coaches."

Delaney was always determined to continue her career in track. The sport has already given her so much, and she doesn't plan on giving it up any time soon.

"I just really have developed a love for track," Delaney said. "I always keep the hurdles close to my heart, whether I'm falling over them or getting over them, they're just real close to me. I just feel like it's really important."