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Jenny Barringer — May, 2010
Jenny Barringer was a member of the 2009 United States World Championship team which competed in Berlin, Germany in the 3000 meter steeplechase where she finished in fifth place. She broke her own American Record with a time of 9:12.50 to become the eight fastest female steeplechase performer of all time. In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China she finished in ninth place with an AR time of 9:22.26. Barringer became the third fastest American woman in history in the 1,500 meters at the 2009 Prefontaine Classic with her PR of 3:59.90. It was the third fastest time in the world in 2009. In the 3,000 meter steeplechase Jenny finished third in the 2008 Olympic Trials and was champion at both the 2009 and 2007 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. She competed for the University of Colorado and is a seven All-American (four in outdoor track, two in cross country, one indoor) and a 12-time All-Big 12 honoree (nine track, three cross country). Jenny owns the collegiate record in the indoor mile (4:25.91), 3k (8:42.03) and the 5k (15:01.70) as well as the outdoor 1,500m (3:59.90), steeplechase (9:25.54) and 5k (15:07.64). In cross country she has two runner-up finishes at the NCAA Championships. She is a three-time NCAA steeplechase champion in 2009 (9:25.54), 2008 (9:29.20) and 2006 (9:53.04). Jenny is a five-time 4A Florida State High School champion on the track and three-time state champion in cross country. Her personal best times include: 800m – 2:02.56; 1500m – 3:59.90; mile – 4:25.91; 3000m – 8:42.03; 3000m steeplechase – 9:12.50 and 5000m – 15:01.70. Jenny is a professional athlete with New Balance and is represented by Flynn Sports Management. A 2009 political science and economics graduate at Colorado, her hobbies include playing piano and she serves as a sign language interpreter. She is engaged to Jason Simpson and an October, 2010 wedding is planned.
GCR:The past several months has been a time of many changes in your life as you graduated from the University of Colorado, selected an agent, decided on a shoe and apparel sponsor, switched coaches and are planning your wedding. How have these multiple major decisions affected you and are you glad, in some respects, that 2010 is not a World Championship or Olympic year?
JBJust because last year was such a successful year I don’t want to feel the high pressure like we have to live up to it. I want to have a professional ‘rookie season’ and just get out and race and bump elbows with people I’ve never raced before. With there not being a World Championships this year I may have an opportunity to have that. It has been a whirlwind of change, but there are some things in my life that haven’t changed and those are the things that are keeping my feet firmly planted on the ground. I’m still running and really enjoying it. My fiancé, Jason, is here and an awesome supporter through all of it. Also, there are certain friends and family members in my life and, even though everything seems to be different and changing and scary, these people and the grounding of my life doesn’t change, which makes it easier. God and my faith keeps me grounded and let me know that through all of this the essence of who I am won’t change.
GCR:What were the major factors which led to your signing with New Balance? Was it a close decision or did they stand out?
JBIn many respects the companies were very difficult to choose between. At the very elementary level there are several companies who make clothes and shoes, do it very well and are excited about me as an athlete. So, on some of the fundamental issues there was no way to differentiate between them. But, going to the headquarters of each company gave me an opportunity to meet the people, see their products and understand their vision as to how I would fit into their message as a company. And that did make a distinction between the companies. I did not get on the plane at the onset and think that New Balance was a big player. I think they probably knew that. But when I got there they just blew me away with their message as a company, the way they run day-to-day operations, how family oriented they are, the integrity of their products and the people they carefully choose to create, manage and organize their products. It just was a company with a message that matched my own and it really resonated with me. And in the end it wasn’t a difficult decision to select New Balance.
GCR:Is it important to be one of few featured athletes rather than a larger group?
JBAbsolutely, it is important. New Balance takes select athletes, but the selections are not just based on athletic ability but who we are as persons. They invest their sponsorship in people who will carry their brand in every aspect which includes the way they live their lives. It is an important thing to consider. I am very proud of my teammates, which was an attraction to the company.
GCR:Before signing with New Balance you selected Ray Flynn Sports Management as your agent. What played into your making the decision to hire FSM?
JBI had the wonderful advantage and pleasure of interacting with many of the agents during the last few years at the World Championships and Olympics. When you travel internationally with a group of runners, coaches and agents you get an opportunity to observe them and get to know them a bit. I really felt that Ray was a person who was always in his athletes’ corner, working for them and ensuring they had what they needed. That was number one – just observing him. And then he also has a great reputation of working with a large range of athletes, a very diverse group of companies and I thought he had no weaknesses.
GCR:Your coaches at Colorado really took you to amazing improvement during the past four and a half years, but you have selected Julie Benson to direct your current and future training. What in her background and abilities led you to choose her to take you to another level of fitness and competitiveness?
JBIt wasn’t entirely my decision as I would have loved to stay at the University of Colorado but it didn’t work out I the end. When my agent and I realized I was no longer going to be able to stay at Colorado we made a list of every coach we could think of and then eliminated names. Then we got down to just the ones we wanted to consider talking to and at the end of the day we had three names. Julie was at the top of the list. It was important to me that after taking time and developing a list that she was at the top. We had always had great interactions and then when I went down to Colorado Springs for a week to train with her it made it a ‘no-brainer’ to select her as my coach. It was a great match from day one. The decision I made was to go with Julie and she has been incredible. I have already relocated from Boulder to Colorado Springs and am living full-time at the Olympic Training Center. So, speaking of changes, that is another one. I am currently trying to sell my house in Boulder, Jason is living and working in Boulder, he will be moving here as we are getting married in October and we will live here in Colorado Springs.
GCR:Your fiancé, Jason, is an excellent runner with a 5k best in the mid-14 minute range. How nice is it to have him as a training partner?
JBHe is THE best training partner. He trained for the Boston Marathon all winter so we traveled between Boulder and Colorado Springs on weekends and were able to run all of my long runs together. He did my long run and added on a little more since he had a marathon to train for. We get along really well and it is a good training match. It will be exciting to be in Boston for the Boston Marathon as I can support Jason and do a few things for New Balance.
GCR:After an extremely successful 2009 track season you delayed turning professional and returned for a final season of collegiate cross-country at Colorado. Now that it is several months in your rear view mirror, how disappointing is it that you didn’t achieve that elusive NCAA individual title and what did you learn from that experience that will make you a better competitor and person?
JBI think it’s far simpler than what some people may expect me to say. I look back now and can just say, ‘You win some and you lose some.’ I really wanted that cross country title and at the time it meant the world to me to come back for a final season and to win it. But looking back I realize now what I should have realized going into it – that it was just another race. It would have been really cool and fun to win but I made it in my mind into something bigger, greater and scarier than it was. I just let it get out of hand in my mind, but it was an important lesson for me to learn before I became a professional. I am glad it happened while I was still at the University of Colorado and had Mark as my coach rather than after I had turned professional. I just hyped it up in my mind and can see that now versus if I was already a professional runner and may have had second thoughts about my training. I have the peace of knowing that my training was going well, my coach was the right coach, it was the right venue and I made it to be too much. So now I can move forward and not feel I have to make big changes in my training just because one race didn’t go well.
GCR:During the race you looked fine and under control for the first 3,000 meters. Did you have any indication that something was about to go wrong like it did when all of a sudden you collapsed and had to work just to get up and complete the race?
JBLooking back I think about how I approached the day. For the first time in my life I was counting down the days from a month out and it wasn’t because I was excited – it was because I wanted the race to be over with. I said to my coaches during the week leading up to it multiple times that I couldn’t wait for it to be over. In that sense maybe I should have seen something coming. But that day when I went to the race course, got prepared, went to the starting line and ran the first 3,000 meters I felt normal and really good. I was more nervous than usual, but physically felt fine. The episode in the middle of the race came on very suddenly with no warning. I was running and then I was on the ground wondering where everyone went. I remember getting up and thinking, ‘Is this a bad nightmare – am I dreaming?’ At first I couldn’t plug into that it was reality. It was kind of scary but I have learned many things from that race and the circumstances leading up to it that will hopefully make me ready when the pressure is even greater.
GCR:You received many awards during the past year including the Bowerman Award, Honda Sports Award for Track, Big 12 Indoor AOY, USTFCCCA Indoor and Outdoor AOY, University of Colorado Female AOY for the second time, Colorado Athlete of the Week a school record 23 times, your 13th All-Big 12 selection, seventh All-American designation, numerous academic awards and semi-finalist for the Coach Wooden Citizenship award. Describe the meaning of these honors and awards.
JBEach award is significant in its own way, but every academic award is twice as precious to me. I am proud of how well I did in school and every time I received an academic award I smiled a little bit broader because I like people to know that there was more to what I was doing at the University of Colorado than running 80 miles a week. I made academics a top priority so any designation from the Dean’s list to recognition by other organizations means a lot. The Bowerman Award was huge – physically huge and big to win it. It was precious to be the inaugural winner and to join Galen Rupp in receiving the award. The awards that I keep on display in my house are those from NCAA Championships. Winning an NCAA title is exactly what my time as a collegiate runner was all about – racing collegians and trying to win against them. Even though all of these awards are noteworthy and it is an honor to be chosen to receive them, my mantle space has been reserved for my NCAA Championship awards. A funny aside is about the 23 Colorado ‘Athlete of the Week’ awards as I won it many times due to racing in three sports - cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. It was almost embarrassing, but it was cool, as many of my classmates knew what I did when I was dashing out of class to go to practice.
GCR:You had some outstanding performances in 2009 and let’s take a look at them starting with your 3:59.9 PR at the Prefontaine Classic 1,500 meters. What was your race strategy and how did you mentally attack the final 200 meters when you had a chance to win?
JBMy race strategy was very simple – I went into the race with one goal – to break the collegiate record for 1,500 meters. The record was 4:06 and I had run 4:08. So when my coaches talked to me they just said I should tuck into the pack and race. With all of the good runners we knew that it would go well under 4:06. They said just to stay in the race, I would get the record and then we could go back to Boulder and get ready for NCAAs. I kind of heard some splits but didn’t pay too much attention to them. I just got out there and raced with people. With about 400 meters to go I moved up, Shannon Rowbury went with me and I thought she would go past. I remember thinking, ‘I feel good and this is how it it’s supposed to be. I’m one of the good Americans, but not the best American.’ Then we came around and it wasn’t about the time – just competing with the other runners. The last 200 meters I felt great and poured it on. I thought I had a chance to win and went for it.
GCR:Was it as shocking to you to run so fast and to break your personal best by an eight second margin as it appeared to those in the stands and watching on television?
JBIt was a few minutes after the race was over and we were all standing there exhausted when I saw a 3:59 time and I was waiting for my time. Then I see it was next to my name, but I was still waiting for MY time. When I finally realized 3:59 was my time my eyes were like saucers, my mouth dropped open and I thought, ‘What?! I knew I had got the collegiate record, but had no idea I had run that fast. I didn’t step up to the starting line with any expectation of breaking four minutes. What is cool is that right after the race Erin Donahue, Shalane Flanagan and other American women came up and were so genuinely happy for me. I thought it was a great moment in our sport.
GCR:You had an outstanding indoor season racing a 4:25.91 mile, 15:01.7 5,000 meters and winning the NCAA 3,000 meter title in 8:42.03. What stands out from each of these races?
JBWhat stands out is that my second race of the indoor season was that 15:01.7 5k. It was one of those cases where the person giving splits couldn’t get to me and the pack as I built a lead. So I didn’t get any splits the last half of the race. I was shooting for 15:20 and when I started missing splits I was concerned about falling off of my planned pace. I was going harder and harder and saw my coaches, Mark and Heather, and they couldn’t give me splits as the track is an unusual distance. They just kept yelling, ‘You’re doing great!’ It was strange as I felt good and pushed harder and when I saw my time it made me realize that my fitness and ability level were in a different universe from the year before. That race was the launching pad for my entire year. The mile was a great race as there was intense competition. I took the lead from the gun and was very confident that I could compete with Sally Kipyego. It was a good growth moment to me to race that well against a top runner like Sally. The NCAA 3,000 meter race was special and it was unreal as I extended my lead and ended up lapping the entire field except for one runner. Of all my NCAA races it put a stamp on my overall goal, which was just to be the best at what I do.
GCR:You won your third NCAA 3,000 meter title in a meet record time of 9:25.54. Was it important to break your own record and what does it say that you were able to perform at such a high level in the event during your four years at Colorado?
JBIt was fun but it was stressful at the same time because that meet had many rain delays. We ended up doing the preliminary race late at night and the final was also delayed. It was a crazy week as everyone was still talking about my 1,500 meter race at the Prefontaine Classic and I was thinking, ‘I still have a big job to do.’ In the 1,500 or 5.000 meters it is a bit more low key to get through the prelims to the finals. However, in the steeplechase you still have to clear the barriers cleanly and hope to avoid anything going awry like when someone stepped on my shoe in the final my sophomore year. When the final began I just wanted to make it through the race without something going wrong. Maybe that’s the way I should have approached cross country later in the year. But I was real happy with how the race went and to take my third NCAA steeple title.
GCR:In Stockholm you won a tactical 5,000 meter race in 15:05.25. How important is it for you to have high level international experience at a variety of distances?
JBIt was very important and a great experience for me as I wasn’t ‘on paper’ as talented as many of my competitors in that race. And it was a bit intimidating since I went out and ended up leading the vast majority of the race. Then when it became tactical I didn’t have 100 per cent power over my foes or my reaction. A runner either gives in and lets the field take over or fights - and I fought. I thought that I had come too far and worked to hard to just get swallowed up and spit out the back of the pack. So when they came up on me I fought them off and that is one of the major tactical things I learned and will take into this season.
GCR:You punched your ticket to the 2009 World Championships with a 9:29.38 where you seemed in control of the entire race. What was your race strategy and were making the team and winning the championship equal goals?
JBAnna Willard was in the race with me and I expected her to race me for the win. But from the gun it seemed that she was just racing to make the team. That is an awesome accomplishment, but I expected her to make a challenge and the fans also were anticipating an epic duel which didn’t pan out. So when I was out in front I just ran hard and enjoyed it without the stress of the all-out competition toward the end. It was fun to race in Eugene in front of a knowledgeable audience where many had seen me run my sub-four minute 1,500 meters earlier in the year.
GCR:You broke your personal best by ten seconds with your fifth place 9:12.50 AR at the World Championships. If someone had told you beforehand that you would do that well, would it have met the goals you set for yourself?
JBI don’t know that I set a specific time goal at the outset of the season as it is such a long season that I just wanted to make it to that point. But I did feel strongly that I could run 9:10 at the World Championships and that would have put me even closer to the medals. My workouts with mark and Heather showed I could run 9:10, but the trouble was finding the competition to bring my steeple time down. I found the competition in the 1,500 and 5k, but not quite in the steeple. I hadn’t had a head-to-head battle in the steeple yet. I didn’t want to go out faster than 3:05 for the first kilometer because I hadn’t run 9:10 before. Thinking and doing are two different things so I really tried to stay on pace.
GCR:The pack got away from you and you were reeling in runners during the final stretch. Did you make a tactical error by not remaining in contact or was the pace just so fast that you played it conservative and were happy to so strong at the end?
JBI think that I did the right thing as know one knew me better than me and my coaches. Afterward we all were sort of wincing as I was so close to the medals, but when we looked back later in the week felt it was my best race on that day. All the critics can say what they want, but we’ll be back at the next World Championships. If I had a race prior to the Worlds where I ran 9:12, then I would have been more ready mentally and physically to possibly stay closer to the leaders at the pace they set.
GCR:What changes or incremental additions to your training as far as volume, intensity or specific training sessions during late 2008 and throughout 2009 led to such sustained high level performances during your indoor and outdoor track season?
JBMark Wetmore was really brilliant in building on the training I had been doing. I had a consistent, uninterrupted program for four years which is proof that consistency and durability can come together and be a beautiful thing. It’s a lesson for runners who feel that things aren’t coming together quickly enough that sometimes you just have to wait, be patient and put your faith in the training. Sometimes it just takes a few years for everything to click.
GCR:Who were some of your favorite adversaries over the past couple of years for there tenacity and competitiveness?
JBThe two most obvious are Sally Kipyego and Anna Willard. Sally and I developed a good friendship over the years. Having Sally as a competitor was tough for me at first as she was able to go out and beat me by forty seconds in cross country. I was supposedly some big shot freshman and then as a sophomore she blew me away. It was a humbling experience. Then as I trained and trained and trained and finally was able to race at her level and be a formidable competitor was fun. She was a big part of my journey through college. Anna Willard and I have helped each other’s careers the way that we push each other. We have been successful in similar events and have a great rivalry. That make the disciplines we compete in exciting for spectators to watch. With Anna and me you probably couldn’t find two more different personalities. To have the two of us on the track with different training and philosophies and for us to duke it out is fun for the fans in the stands.
GCR:What is your training and racing plan for 2010 in terms of racing distances and domestic versus foreign competitions?
JBAs I mentioned before, I am excited to have a professional ‘rookie’ season in 2010. In that sense it is good to go through my first year as a professional runner without a World Championships or Olympics. This will allow my new coach and me to get to know and understand each other’s styles and philosophies during the first half of the season. There will be some low-key meets on my schedule here in the U.S. which will probably include one at Stanford. Then I will be off to Europe for international competitions. Because I have shown good range in racing from 800 meters up to 5,000 meters my races will have a fairly even distribution across the spectrum.
GCR:With your fondness for cross country racing, will we see you competing to make the United States team for the 2011 World Championships or in subsequent years?
JBI haven’t thought specifically about goals in cross country, but I do love the sport. I will consider racing cross country in upcoming years as I like the cross country season and it would be another exciting way to represent my country internationally.
GCR:As we approach the 2011 World Championships and 2012 London Olympics do you have any time goals you wish to share in various events and are your championship races to be most likely in the steeplechase?
JBDespite my success in the steeplechase it is not cast in stone that I will compete in that event at the World Championships or Olympics. As I compete at various distances, my coach and I will determine in which event I appear to be strongest relative to my competition. As far as goals I wish to continue improving my times in all of my events. There are some obvious time thresholds such as sub-2:00 for 800 meters, sub-9:00 in the steeple and sub-15:00 in the 5,000 meters which I would like to achieve.
GCR:The steeplechase is a relatively young event for women both domestically and internationally. As he first American to compete so strongly globally, what do you see as your responsibility to inspire those who will follow you?
JBI definitely have a personal appreciation for the steeplechase because it is the event which first took me to a high level. I hope that my success increases interest in U.S. women runners in the event. But my main responsibility is to get in the best position to come home with medals. My coach and I will decide if that is in one event or more and go from there.
GCR:You are still relatively young to be so successful on the World stage. What do you foresee in your future in the areas of competition, family and additional schooling during the next decade?
JBOne thing I am sure of is that nothing I make plans for will go exactly as I plan. I’m excited about not knowing how things will play out. I am always very dedicated to all aspects of my life. Whether it’s running, family or school I will pour my heart out with God’s guidance to be successful at whatever I do.
 Inside Stuff
Favorite midnight snackI'm asleep at midnight
Oddest thing a coach saidSlow down
Pre-race favorite musicI don't listen to any
Embarrassing TV habitI watch a lot of PBS, but I'm not embarrassed about it!
Last music concertMute Math (you should check them out)
Junk food cravingDoes ice cream count?
Most annoying habitThat question should go to my current roommates
Favorite Halloween costumeI didn't dress up for Halloween when I was growing up. Honestly, I don't even remember what we did on that holiday as a family! But one year in college I dressed up as one of our teammates... kind of lame, I know
Favorite birthday memoryI celebrated my last three birthdays at the World Championships and Olympics - what could be better than that?
Surprising iPod musicDoes it surprise you that I don't listen to an iPod?
First thing each dayHit the snooze button at least once
Worst cooking experience I'm a fabulous cook (smile). However, one time I was slow cooking ribs and we think the meat was bad because it didn't cook right and the house smelled terrible for days. It was awful! The ribs got tossed and Jason and I went out for Chinese food
TV reality show to be on‘The Apprentice’ back in one of the first few seasons. I think I would have rocked that show!
Exciting night life at collegeI'm in bed at night
Favorite cartoon‘Tom and Jerry’ - no contest!
Favorite movie lineFat guy, little coat! (who doesn't LOVE Chris Farley??)
Worst date everI went to a dance in high school and it was totally the stereotypical scenario where the guy walks to the door with a timid smile and wilted flower to pin on my dress while his mom is waving in the background from the minivan that's going to be our transportation for the night. It wasn't the worst date ever, but I was so mortified as a 16-year-old about the whole experience. I also was invited and then ‘uninvited’ to Prom my sophomore year and was kind of devastated about that at the time. I was really awkward in high school I think, at least those first two years!