Athlete Feature 12 - Stephanie Barnes - USA Athletics Scholarships

Athlete Feature 12 – Stephanie Barnes


For this week’s athlete feature we head to the Deep South to Auburn, Alabama where Bristol athlete Stephanie Barnes attended for two years (2009-2011). She shares her experiences of southern life, supporting a National Championship winning football team and also making the All SEC Conference track and cross country teams. Her Powerof10 profile can be found here


tbUSA – Your time at Auburn began just as Mark Carroll was appointed distance coach. Did you know this appointment was happening as you were being recruited, and how was it that you decided on Auburn?


SB - I was originally recruited by Pete Watson. However, he left during the summer before I arrived , and had taken a new job with University of North Carolina. When I first found this out Auburn were still in the process of finding a new distance coach so I was slightly concerned with what I should do. I had other options to go to a different school and at the time I was tempted. However a few weeks or so later, Coach Carroll got in contact explaining he was now the new coach and I got really excited, so I stuck with my original decision and have not regretted it since. I initially decided to go to Auburn after a fantastic recruiting visit where I felt it was the perfect place for me; I also knew I didn’t want to go to a school in the North.


tbUSA – Did you have any other options available at the time you were graduating from UWIC? Was going to America always the aim?

SB – Going to America was something I always wanted to do and I made a decision back before starting at UWIC that I would go over after an undergraduate degree here in the UK. I had a few options from a variety of other schools; mostly the ones that you’ll find many English athletes at already, but I liked the fact the Auburn had a majority of Americans on the women’s side.


tbUSA -You have been to University in the UK and the US, what similarities or differences did you find between the two systems? This doesn’t have to be just related to running and can cover anything.

SB – It’s difficult to find many similarities between the two university systems but the differences I found are the work ethic is much higher in the US compared with the UK. Classes are much smaller and set up like they are in secondary schools, where as in the UK they I found them to be more lecture based and usually filled with 100 students. Also, in the US there is a lot more emphasis on grades and keeping all your grades high, where, as for me, in the UK it was mostly about passing each year. In relation to university sports, in the US it is taken a lot more seriously and competitively compared to the UK, everyone has so much passion and dedication towards their university and it was great to see and be a part of.


tbUSA – What degree did you study for at Auburn? What do you think that having an American Degree will add to your CV?

SB – I studied a Masters degree in Health Promotion. I wanted to study an area that would compliment my undergraduate degree and felt like this was the best option for me. I think having an American degree on my CV will hopefully interest and intrigue people.


tbUSA – Did the Southern climate take some getting used to, especially the heat and humidity that the spring and summertime bring?

SB – Yes. The heat and humidity definitely did take some getting used to, but we would try to avoid the hotter times of the day by training early in the morning and/or later in the evening. This seemed to work well for training, however racing in these conditions was sometimes a little rough, but I don’t think it really affected me anymore than anyone else.


tbUSA – How did things go athletically for you at Auburn? Whilst you did not appear to PB stateside, your Pof10 shows that most of your races looked to be fairly solid.

SB – Athletically for me, I was content with what I accomplished, although one major goal that every athlete in the NCAA wants to achieve is to qualify for Nationals and that never worked out for me. Like you say my races were solid and I was especially pleased with how I ran at every SEC Track and Cross Country championship, however towards the NCAA regional races I somehow always picked up an injury or sickness which was very frustrating with regards to PBs. I was never really concentrating on one event during both of my track seasons so a better time never appeared. In championship races PBs are more than likely to go out the window.


tbUSA – Auburn has a strong sporting tradition, most notably with the football team’s National Championship win this year. Did you get into the ‘school spirit’ and attend various fixtures taking place on campus?

SB – Yes, I sure did. It was impossible not to get into the ‘school spirit’ in Auburn. Obviously last season was especially amazing for the football team and it brought everyone together on campus. I attended the football games that didn’t interfere with our cross-country schedule; these were immense and always very inspiring to watch.


tbUSA – Auburn is known as a college town. It is a public university with over 25,000 undergraduate students attending.  Did life on campus at all resemble what it is portrayed to be in the movies?

SB –  It did feel like a movie at times but being an athlete, I probably wasn’t around it as much as typical student. With Auburn being such a big college town, everyone is so friendly, positive and encouraging; I really enjoyed being a part of this kind of atmosphere.


tbUSA – Can you talk a little about the culture you experienced living in the ‘Deep South,’ and how different was this to life in the UK?

SB – The ‘Deep South’ culture differs vastly from the UK. First of all, most Southern families are strongly religious and attend church on a regular basis. I found the Southern dialect to be very unique and sometimes bordering on incomprehensible. Another big thing is the love for food and drink; they have many traditions including barbequing pork, baked grits and drinking gallons of sweet tea. Finally, their choice in music is one that I never really favoured to, and that was country music.

tbUSA – We know all about the music!


tbUSA – Now that you are back in the UK, what do you plan to do next? Do you intend to carry on running?

SB – Yes I am definitely continuing my running; I am currently on the job hunt and hope to both work and train. I am very much looking forward to getting back in the mix of things this cross-country season.


tbUSA – Final question and a ‘must ask’ to all of our featured athletes. What advice would you offer to athletes considering the US collegiate system?

SB – To those considering the US collegiate system, my advice would be to ensure that you have done your research about the school, the state, its climate and the coaching philosophy. This would prevent any big surprises once you get there. The best situation is to obviously visit the school in advance to really get the feel of things. To those who are undecided about going in the first place, if you don’t have the perfect set up here in the UK for your studies and running career, then why not take a once in a lifetime experience to go over to the US, you may find it to be the best decision for you.


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