Buff Blitz: 2009 Indoor Nationals
In the world of track and field, Jenny Barringer's name has become synonymous with the steeplechase - after all, she does own the American and collegiate record in the 3,000-meter event which she set at the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing. But there is so much more to this athlete and University of Colorado senior besides just the steeplechase.
Take the mile, 3k, and 5k, for example. Barringer has run in one of each of these races this season, all of which have resulted in huge CU records. Her marks in the mile and 5K have been collegiate bests and all three have been the top marks in the NCAA.
The Big 12 Indoor Performer of the Year will be competing in the 3k at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championship March 13-14 in College Station, Texas, where she will try to capture her first indoor national title.
"I'm really looking forward to lining up against the best in the nation," Barringer said. "Unlike winning in the Big 12s or in other meets, if you win at the national championships, you legitimately are the best in the nation. It's the end of the (indoor) season, everybody's put in the work, and we'll all come to the line at the same time. I'm really excited."
Barringer's marks in the mile (4:25.91), 3k (8:53.88) and 5k (15:01.70) this season were all automatic times to qualify her for the NCAA Championship.
Perhaps, her record-setting mile run which led her to her first indoor title at the Big 12 Indoor Championship on February 28 was one of her biggest accomplishments; she defeated long-time rival, Texas Tech's Sally Kipyego, for the first time ever. Although their rivalry is "really, really friendly," says Barringer, it really means a lot to her to finally defeat her friend.
"I have an enormous amount of respect for her because I have been working for three years to catch her and she's running at this incredibly high level and continuing to improve," Barringer said. "It definitely does mean that I've come to a different level."
In fact, Barringer says she's in better shape than she's ever been: "I might even be in better shape than I was at the Olympics, and I think that's because I'm still maturing as an athlete."
After indoor nationals, Barringer will begin to focus on the outdoor season. "The indoor season, for me is just kind of a warm-up for outdoors."
She will look to build on this season's indoor success as she moves outside in just a little over a week. While Barringer already has two NCAA titles in the steeplechase from the outdoor national championships in 2006 and 2008, this will not be the only event she'll run in the 2009 outdoor season - she will likely run a 5K and 1,500-meter run as well.
After the outdoor season, Barringer would be getting ready to graduate college, but she missed out on last year's cross country season, so she is sticking around for another semester to compete in the sport she calls her "first love" when it comes to running.
"Cross country is where my heart is, absolutely," Barringer said. "That's really, I feel like, where my roots are."
One of the biggest reasons Barringer is staying at CU an extra semester is because the competitor in her wants that desirable cross country title.
According to Barringer, the NCAA Cross Country title is huge because it's the most participated-in sport of all the NCAA sports. Cross country is also the only NCAA sport that comes down to one winner, one person.
"So because of those two things combined, I think it's easily the most coveted and hardest-to-achieve prize across the NCAA," Barringer said. "So I want it, and I'm going to stay and try for it one more time."
While a lot of people know about Barringer's track and cross-country careers, they know little about her academic success and community involvement.
In addition to dedicating herself to her athletic endeavors, Barringer is double majoring in political science and economics, and she's doing it quite well too. She is a seven-time member of the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll and was named the USTFCCCA All-Academic Women's Cross Country Athlete of the year in 2006 and 2007. She was also named an Academic All-American last season.
Barringer credits her academic achievement to the structured lifestyle she has with running as well as to wanting to please her coach. But it's also very important to her to do well at both things: "What's important to you will get done, and that's probably most of the reason why (I've been able to excel at both academics and athletics)".
Aside from studying and training, Barringer makes sure she finds the time to give back to the community by volunteering through her church with a refugee service.
"I feel like the community supports what I do," she said.
Barringer is on scholarship at CU, thanks in large part to the people who donate to the school and to the athletics program. And not only does the community donate their money to support Barringer, but they give up their time as volunteer officials at the meets.
"So a lot of what I do is based on people who are willing to give up their time and contribute to the community," she said. "I see how far I've come as an individual because of them, so I want to be able to do the same thing."
While Barringer has grown in all facets during her time here at the University of Colorado, she isn't quite ready to say goodbye yet to her team, to her coaches, or to the resources CU has to offer.
"There's no way I could match that on my own once I leave," she said. "I know everyone has their own choice to make, but I don't know why anyone would leave this!"
But come December, it will be time for the Florida native to leave CU, the place she's called home for the past four years.
While she plans to stay in Boulder after she graduates and to pursue a professional career, Barringer does not know too much about what lies ahead.
One thing she hopes awaits her is the Summer Olympics, which will be held in London in less than four years. "It's on the calendar - 2012," she says.
Eventually, when running isn't her top priority, Barringer wants to go back to law school - and who knows, perhaps that might even be at her old CU stomping grounds.
"It's a little bit of a mystery ahead of me, but I'm really excited to see where it takes me," she said.
One thing's for certain though - with all of her talents and involvement, Barringer gives herself plenty of options. She is sure to make leaps and bounds and continue on down the road of success.