Barker ready to be driving force in EHS, TAD athletics

By Ivan Sanders
STAR CORRESPONDENT
isanders@starhq.com

   The Elizabethton Board of Education went searching for a diamond in the rough to guide the T.A. Dugger Junior High seventh and eighth-grade girls basketball program and the varsity girls softball program at Elizabethton High.
   They wanted someone that had been tried and proven over time, coming away shining like a brilliant star hung high in the night sky.
   They found their diamond and now she is set to prove there is definitely no limit for the ladies involved in each respective program. Angie Barker, a 1984 graduate of EHS, is the gem selected and she is chomping at the bits to show these ladies that with hard work and dedication, they can exceed even the success she experienced in her glory days at Elizabethton High School and East Tennessee State University.
   Barker's storied sports past looks like something off of ESPN Sportscenter's Greatest Athletes. A six-time state champion in the shot put and discus in high school with standing state records to this day, an All-American performer in 1985 and 1988 at the college level as well as NCAA National Champion in '88, and inducted into both the EHS and ETSU Hall of Fame is nothing shy of making ones knees buckle at the magnitude of her success.
   A blown knee is the only thing that kept Barker from reaching Olympian status as she was set to go train before the knee went out. Now Barker is ready to use all her stored resources to make sure these programs will not only be competitive, but highly successful as well.
   "I believe that I can bring some excitement to these girls because I can relate to their emotions being a female coach," said Barker. "I want to show them that with determination and drive they can excel and be successful in their athletic endeavors."
   Barker knows what it is like to be in these girls shoes because she once struggled with the same thoughts and feelings as they do.
   Said Barker: "Coach Jim Presnell, who was like a father and brother, was a tremendous inspiration to me and never failed to work with me on every aspect of my training. He would have me out there throwing in the snow and rain, lifting weights, and whatever it took to become a better performer. I probably spent more time with him than Mrs. Presnell, but one day I hope to repay him for all he has done to help me achieve my success."
   Barker knows she has something special in the programs at each school. The seventh and eighth-grade girls basketball teams appear to have the talent to take a conference championship, and the Lady Cyclones return a core group of solid softball performers as well as some very talented first year players.
   "We are trying to get everything sorted out now, but we have some very talented players in our basketball program and we feel that we are capable of going all the way," said Barker. "There are 11 girls on the seventh-grade team and 11 on the eighth-grade squad."
   Barker has surrounded herself with the right mix of assistant coaches to help make both programs top notch. Coach Kip Anderson will be assisting Barker in basketball and Coach Melissa McClain, a former collegiate softball player, is volunteering her time to help with the varsity softball program.
   It is no secret either that the administrations at both schools are pleased with the Board of Education's pick to lead each program.
   "Angie brings a wealth of knowledge to the table as she has been around softball and sports in general all her life," quipped EHS Athletic Director Larry Alderson. "She will be a big asset to the girls participating because she will be able to relate to them in not only the sports but in life experiences as well."
   Barker, who also is teaching physical education and health at T.A. Dugger, is pleased with all the support she has received since being placed in her new roles.
   "I am very encouraged by the support the school administrations have given me from T.A. Dugger to EHS as well as the school board," stated Barker. "Mrs. Cates and Mr. Culbert here at T.A. Dugger, Coach Alderson and Mr. Alexander at EHS, and Dr. Blevins and Mr. Taylor at board headquarters have been nothing but encouraging and supportive of all that I have tried to do."
   There are two more people that Barker holds forth like a shining beacon in the progress of her life-long sports career and success.
   Added Barker: "My mom and dad have always been there to encourage me and make sure I had everything I needed to be successful. When I blew my knee out, they even drove me all the way to Georgia to get the best surgeon ensuring I would have every opportunity to heal properly and get back to my sports career. I truly appreciate them for all they've done."
   Without reservation, it is easy to see why the girls that have the opportunity to be under the tutelage of Barker will have a privilege many others will not. It's not everyday that a player can claim to have a coach who has reached the plateau of success as Barker and now have the direct resources before them to see how the road of success can be paved in their life.