RALEIGH, N.C. - Meredith College's Head Cross Country Coach Amy Olsen stepped out of her comfort zone three years ago to help a colleague transform her longtime enjoyment of and commitment to athletics competition.
Jane Barnes, entering her 11th year as a professor in Meredith's School of Business, participated in sports in high school and college and competed in the senior games in softball.
In 2010 Barnes decided to shift her speed and dedication to track and field, competing for the first time in the senior games that year. After unexpectedly winning a state championship, she partnered with Olsen and committed herself to the new sport.
A longtime athlete and coach in the sport of cross country, Olsen invited the challenge of coaching a sprinter and educated herself on the techniques and training strategies specific to that form of racing. Olsen enjoyed the change of pace associated with the psychological and physical differences of sprinting.
"Three times a week for almost three years, through rain, freezing or blistering hot weather, and aches and pains, I always show up (as does she)," said Barnes. "[Olsen's] ability to motivate is evidenced by making me work harder than I ever would by myself."
Barnes recently won five events in the masters division of the USA Track & Field championships. She claimed indoor titles in the 60 meter sprint and shot put and outdoor titles in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay. "I can say without a doubt that I would not have achieved the level of success that I have had without her as my coach," said Barnes.
While she had some experience coaching sprinters, most of Olsen's competitive and coaching career was dedicated to distance running. A former NCAA Division I coach, Olsen joined the Meredith Avenging Angels in 2005 to create and develop a new cross country program. She also brought with her a decorated running career from Eastern Kentucky University where she was a three-time conference champion in women's cross country.
Olsen enjoys teaching and student-athlete development, which became her focus as the head coach at Meredith beginning in 2005. Her recruiting and coaching success is demonstrated with a second-place team finish in the 2012 USA South Conference championships and the expectation to capture this year's title in the preseason coaches' poll.
"Barnes is a phenomenal example of what people at her age can do competitively," said Olsen. Olsen's grateful her student can finally take advantage of the opportunities available to female athletes since the enactment of Title IX in 1972.
Meredith opens the 2013 season Friday, August 30, at the St. Andrews Invitational. Revisit goavengingangels.com to follow the Avenging Angels throughout the season.