2000 Olympian Barbara Petrahn is back and ready to hit the ground running - literally.
May 2, 2001
Editor's Note: Articles such as this one by Larry Little appear in each edition of the Baylor Bear Insider Report, available upon membership in the Baylor Bear Foundation. For information on joining the Bear Foundation, click here.
Patience is a virtue. Just as junior track star Barbara Petrahn. After sitting out the indoor season due to injury, the Gyor, Hungary, native has returned to the Baylor track team with a vengence.
The six-time all-American missed the indoor season because of a bulging disc in her back, something she noticed during fall workouts. At one point, Petrahn found it difficult to walk, running was a distant wish. The remainder of the fall, and the majority of the winter, was spent getting her back into shape.
Petrahn eventually returned to the track in January, thanks to a lot of help from Dr. Ron Linderman. Then, one day in February, she regained her kick.
"I felt like I could start working out harder," she said. "I worked out a little harder the next day, and a little harder the next day and a little harder the next week."
Before long, Petrahn was back to the form that made her one of the nation's top female quarter-milers a year ago. However, Baylor head coach Clyde Hart was not ready to push her.
"It was a calculated chance that we took in holding her out for the indoor season," Hart said. "She probably could have come back for the conference meet, but we didn't want to push her too much. We made a wise decision to hold her back."
Petrahn said that allowed her to focus on the outdoor season. Once she recovered from her back injury, Petrahn zoned in on being in peak condition by March.
Upon return, her impact was felt immediately. Petrahn ran the anchor leg for the 4x400-meter relay team at the Whataburger/UTSA Relays, Baylor's first outdoor meet. The foursome of Tiffany Wise, Tamara Johnson, Chava Demart and Petrahn finished first with a time of three minutes, 43.61 seconds. Petrahn's split, by the way, was more than two seconds faster than any of her teammates.
"I was pretty nervous," Petrahn said.
If so, it did not show. She also anchored the 4x200 team to a first-place time of 1:36.55 and the 4x100 team to a second-place showing at 45.75.
The following Saturday, Petrahn added the 200 meters to her repertoire on her home track at the Dr Pepper Invitational, she finished first with a time of 24.11 seconds. From there, she went to the Tellez Invitational in Houston, Texas, and the hits just kept on coming. In her first open 400-meter race of the year, Petrahn clocked an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 52.81 seconds and finished second in a stellar field. That time ranked second nationally through April 2.
Petrahn said she was still nervous in Houston, wanting to reproduce her strong 52.46 time from the 2000 Tellez Invitational. She said she came out slow this year, but was able to kick it in during the last 100 meters.
"That tells me I'm probably stronger than I was a year ago," she said. "A year ago, I started a second faster and finished with about the same time."
Again, though, Petrahn's day was not finished. She also anchored the 4x100 team to a third-place and NCAA provisional time of 45.09. And her 52.77 split on the anchor leg of the 4x400 gave Baylor a first-place and meet-record provisional time of 3:37.91, the fifth-fastest time in the nation at that point.
Hart pointed to how much simply having Petrahn back on the track has meant to the women's team, which missed the NCAA Indoor Championships this season for the first time since 1992.
"When they know they have her, they know they have a chance," Hart said. "Barbara is such a great competitor, and her teammates know that she is going to give them a great performance. She is an extremely hard working young lady, she has worked very hard to come back."
It should come as a surprise, however, that Petrahn should be nervous at meets such as the UTSA Relays and Tellez Invitational. After all, she spent some time Down Under last fall with the Hungarian National Team at the Games of the 27th Olympiad.
Petrahn advanced to the second round of the 400 meters in Sydney, Australia, with a time of 52.86 seconds opening round. She bettered that time at 52.72 in the second round, but failed to advance.
"If you go there and you are not one of the best, you want to be one of the best," Petrahn said of her Olympic experience. "As soon as you get there, you don't want to be just one of the participants at the Olympics You want to be the best."
And that is something for which Petrahn is striving - to be one of the best. In fact, she is already making plans to return to her home continent for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
"I'm really looking forward to the next Olympic games, I want to be there again," she said. "When we were running, the whole stadium was full. That was such a good feeling."
Petrahn came to Baylor from Hungary nearly three years ago. She said it was a difficult transition to make, mainly on the track.
"Our workout in Hungary was very different," she said. "I wasn't really ready for our workouts in my freshman year, and I didn't really improve."
Petrahn returned to Hungary the summer following her freshman year. While her times had not improved, she said her Hungarian coach was able to see improvement. It showed in her sophomore year, in which she earned all-America honors in the 4x400 during the indoor season and in the 400 meters, the 4x100 and the 4x400 during the outdoor season.
"When I came back for my sophomore year, I was so much stronger," said Petrahn, who credited Hart with her development. "I could run so much faster than the previous year. I really believe in this workout."
Still, Petrahn had difficulties in adjusting to other things about American life.
"It's pretty hot here," she said. "I like it here, but I just don't like certain foods ... like the bread. In Hungary, you can eat a whole loaf of bread and you feel like you haven't eaten anything. Here, if I eat two pieces, I'm so full."
Petrahn may still have some adjusting to do in terms of the cultural differences between Waco, Texas, and Gyor, Hungary. However, for right now, she is the bread and butter of the Baylor women's track team.
Editor's Note: Articles such as this one by Larry Little appear in each edition of the Baylor Bear Insider Report, available upon membership in the Baylor Bear Foundation. For information on joining the Bear Foundation,