She’s the latest former Colorado runner to leave Buffaloes coach Mark Wetmore.
By David Monti
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
On the heels of signing her first sponsorship agreement with New Balance last month, Jenny Barringer has made another important move in the early stages of her professional running career. The USA steeplechase record holder has decided to change coaches, moving to former 1500m Olympian Juli (Henner) Benson, the head cross country and assistant track coach at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Barringer had been coached by the University of Colorado’s Mark Wetmore, her college coach.
“As you can imagine, this is a difficult change,” Barringer told Race Results weekly in a telephone interview. ”I came back to the University of Colorado and Mark and I had an opportunity to spend some time to discuss my future. We both agreed that he had a big job and I’m a big job, so we decided to move in different directions.”
Under Coach Wetmore, Barringer set NCAA records for 1500m (3:59.90), the indoor mile (4:25.91), indoor 3000m (8:42.03), 5000m (15:01.70), and steeplechase (9:25.54). She also finished ninth in the 2008 Olympic Games, and fifth at the 2009 IAAF World Championships in the steeplechase. It was in that world championships race where Barringer ran her American record 9:12.50.
Barringer was quick to point out how much Wetmore’s coaching had meant to her career.
“He’s an incredible college coach,” she said. ”He’s proved that over and over again. Coaching a post-collegiate is a different job and takes a lot of time and a lot of energy. We’ve decided it’s best for me to find a professional’s coach.”
Benson said that she had not been actively looking to coach Barringer. She bumped into Barringer at the Air Force All-Comers meet on January 15, and was reminded that she had written an encouraging e-mail to Barringer but had never sent it because she didn’t have the athlete’s new e-mail address.
“I was running around like crazy doing things for the meet and I ran right into her,” Benson recounted in a telephone interview from Colorado Springs. ”I gave her a big hug and said I have an e-mail for her.”
In subsequent conversations with Barringer, and her manger Ray Flynn, Benson learned that Barringer was excited to explore her talents further in the middle distances, especially after her surprising sub-4:00 1500m at the Prefontaine Classic last year.
“Upon talking to her I realized that she was looking to explore the 1500 side of things more,” Benson said. ”It was a really good fit.”
Barringer agreed. ”I’m really excited about it. She was an incredible athlete herself.”
Wetmore’s devotion to building an athlete’s aerobic base will serve Barringer well, Benson said. But she also said that Wetmore had helped develop Barringer’s fierce competitive mindset.
“From what I’ve seen Coach Wetmore has done a phenomenal job in all regards,” Benson remarked. ”Not just getting her to a high fitness level. It seems that he had a vision of what this athlete could do. He did a great job of preparing her both physically and mentally. As we’ve seen, she’s never backed down from any international competition. He’s done a phenomenal job.’
Barringer said that the coaching change would be immediate, but that it would take some time for her make the full transition to training in Colorado Springs which is 97 miles (156 km) north of Boulder. Barringer’s fiancée, Jason Simpson, whom she plans to marry next October, lives and works in Boulder.
“I’m not sure exactly what the timeframe is, but I’ll be training at least part-time in Colorado Springs,” Barringer concluded. ”The move will be a very personal decision for Jason and I in the upcoming weeks.”
As for Benson, she’s ready to dive in, immediately.
“You dream of opportunities like this,” she said. ”I really plan to leave no stone unturned.”