Angel Frank is proud of her heritage. The senior sprinter for South Carolina track and field grew up in Charleston, but with her father, Carlos, hailing from the Philippines, she proudly had the opportunity to compete in the archipelagic country last month and won the Philippine National Championship in the 400 meters and also set a Philippine national record in the race.
“My father is Filipino,” said Frank, who will graduate in May with a degree in visual communications. “They came over to the U.S. when he was three years old. He and my grandmother got their citizenship when they came here. I didn’t have a lot of contact with my family over there. It was just my grandmother who instilled me with Filipino principles and food! That’s what kept me connected.
“I was watching the previous Olympics, and there was an athlete who was African American and Filipino, and that triggered a desire in me to see if I could pursue that for myself. It started the process of me getting in contact with their national team and work towards dual citizenship.”
Both of Frank’s parents were college sprinters. Carlos ran track and played football at The Citadel, while her mother, Sindy, ran track at Roanoke College in Virginia. However, neither pushed her into running competitively.
“I started running competitions in the first grade,” Frank said. “A friend in elementary school told me I should run on a team with her, so I did. I started running the 100 and 200 meters. My high school coach forced me to run the 400, and I didn’t like it at first, but it ended up being my best event. I enjoy competing, but what I enjoy most is the training part. I like going out there every day, being around my teammates, and focusing on what I need to improve each day. You do get a rush every time you have a good workout, and I like that.
“The coaching staff in general here believed in me before I really saw it in myself. They’re always there for encouragement and supporting me in whatever I do. (Assistant) Coach (for sprints and hurdles) Karim (Abdel Wahab) has helped me develop into the person I am now, mentally, and physically. I attribute a lot of my success to him.”
Frank has been on a solid trajectory with her running career. She earned First Team All-America honors with the Gamecocks last year in the 4×400 after finishing fifth in the NCAA Outdoor Championships. She had also qualified for the 400 meters and the 4×100 at the 2022 NCAA Championships. Winning the title in the Philippines was also a huge feather in her cap.
“It was pretty unreal,” Frank said. “I was working on just being there and being a part of the team there for about two years, so being there, qualifying for the finals, and then winning it was surreal. I remember how I had visualized it, and that’s exactly what I intended to happen. After winning, being up on the podium, and hearing the national anthem play, it was a very significant moment for me.
“My father (pictured below) was there for it, and it was his first time back in the Philippines since he was three years old. It was really nice. He was very happy.”
“The more I run now, the more I see all of the opportunities I have had through track, especially with community and meeting other people from different backgrounds.”
Once she receives her passport from the Philippines, Frank looks forward to the chance to compete for that country’s national team on the biggest international stages.
“The biggest goal is the 2024 Olympics,” Frank said. “But there will be some other international meets this summer to represent them. It’s definitely a more stacked field to try to be part of Team USA, but I feel more drawn to do it for the Philippines because I don’t think a lot of people have the opportunity that I have to choose between both. I have more of a personal draw to the Philippines because of my grandmother, and I haven’t had as much opportunity to learn about that side of my family since I have lived here for twenty years, so this is a bridge for me to really connect to that side of my life.
“Until then, it’s all about training so I can run a good enough time to represent them there.”
That includes finishing her senior season with the Gamecocks, where she hopes to continue to shine.
“Individually, I want to keep improving my time in the 400,” Frank said. “I feel like I have a lot more in me. That’s what my coach says, and I believe it, too. I’m excited for the upcoming SEC Championships and the NCAAs (Outdoor Championships). I also want to contribute for the team in the 4×100 and the 4×400 because we have a really good sprinter group. I think we can do really well at nationals.
“The 400 is my favorite. It’s hard, but that’s what makes it fun because not everybody can do it. You have to prepare mentally to do it.”
Frank said both of her parents have told her that she is faster than they were in their prime, and that’s another nice accolade for a young athlete who takes pride in learning more about her family as well as others with whom she comes into contact.
“I used to think about how track took me out of doing certain things and how I would be missing out on things, but the more I run now, the more I see all of the opportunities I have had through track, especially with community and meeting other people from different backgrounds,” Frank said. “That starts with people from different states, different socio-economic backgrounds, and meeting people from different countries and cultures. Track has acted as the ultimate bridge for me in making connections. It really opens your mind to other opinions and beliefs.”