When I got a call in the autumn of 2008 from Out magazine editor Aaron Hicklin looking for out gay athletes to profile in their Out 100, I immediately connected him with two Ivy League runners: Jamal Brown and Cory Benton. While Jamal wrote his story for us in at the time, after 18 months, we've finally got Cory's story to tell here. His is a story of struggle, dealing with other young black men calling him "too white" in high school and hearing homophobic jokes and comments in the locker room, even after he came out. But with the support of head coach Willy Wood, Cory is loving life as an out gay athlete.
You can read Cory's full account of his coming-out process. We also caught up with Coach Wood and asked him a few quick questions about Cory's coming out. You can read that after the jump.
Outsports: Do you have gay friends or relatives?
Willy Wood: I do not have any relatives who have come out. I do have a couple of friends.
OS: How did you feel when Cory came out to you?
Wood: I was proud and felt glad that the environment of our program was conducive to such. Additionally, I felt proud of Cory and his desire to share this with me.
Were you concerned with how Cory's coming out might affect your team's unity or performance?
Wood: I was not concerned at all. It is my hope that we have created an accepting community here and I was confident that the members of the team would be accepting and supportive.
OS: Have any of your coaches or athletes expressed concern or negative feelings about Cory's sexuality?
Wood: Never on one occasion have I heard anything along those lines.
OS: Is Cory the first athlete you've coached to come out while on the team?
Wood: We have had a few people come out while on the team over the last couple of years. If he was not the first, he was certainly among the first.
OS: Do you think Cory's coming out has affected his performance on the track?
Wood: From what I have been able to observe not at all.