Jane Barnes is taking advantage of her opportunity, though it has come later in her life.
Barnes, a 61-year-old associate professor at Meredith College’s School of Business, won the 100- and 200-meter track events last month at the National Senior Games while also anchoring a 4x100 team that took 14 seconds off the meet record.
This year she won the USA Track & Field indoor titles in the 60 meters and shot put, and outdoor titles in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay.
Barnes ran track as a high school student in Ohio and during her first year of college at Ohio University, but she didn’t compete in track and field again until three years ago.
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“I had been participating in the Senior Games in softball, and then I discovered that I was still sort of fast, so then I entered the Senior Track Games in 2010,” she said.
Barnes’ “sort of fast” speed was enough to set a state record in the 100 that year.
“When I won the state championship, I was a little surprised. ... Then I got a coach and dropped softball and dedicated myself to track and field,” she said. “I’ve always been competitive. I’ve always been athletic. I’ve always enjoyed participating in sports, and when I saw that they had the track and field, I sort of remembered and missed the competition. I always loved racing, and when I got back into it I remembered the feeling.”
Though she had some success as a high school athlete, Barnes has seen much more success as a master athlete.
Barnes competed against a former Olympic medalist when she won the 100 at last year’s USATF National Masters Outdoor Championships.
The masters division of USA Track & Field begins at age 30 and is divided into 5-year age groups up to 90-plus.
She credits Meredith cross country coach Amy Olsen for helping her achieve her success.
Olsen has coached Barnes for three years. They work out three times a week.
“I was sort of a diamond in the rough, and she has really made me an excellent sprinter,” Barnes said.
Olsen says Barnes is a natural but may not have had many opportunities to compete at a younger age.
“She has a natural talent, but because of her age didn’t have the opportunities that women have now in sports,” Olsen said. “She’s getting her opportunity a little later in life, and I’m glad she’s taking a hold of that.”
Both Barnes and Olsen know that there will come a time when the ascension stops.
“Because of my age, I’m waiting for that point when I’m going to start slowing down,” Barnes said.
Even then, Barnes says she will keep at it.
“If you’ve never been to one of these meets, it’s just really something to see these athletes running well into their 90s,” Barnes said. “It’s really great to see these people out doing these things. I plan on doing this as long as I can.”