Whenever Jenny Barringer raced this winter, she set a record. The most recent coming Saturday, when she won her first NCAA indoor championship, clocking 8 minutes, 42.03 seconds to win the collegiate 3,000 meters title at College Station, Texas. It was her third collegiate record of the season, and one that is likely to stand for a long time.

After her Saturday win Barringer said, referring to ex-Buffs Sara Slattery and Rene Metivier, who also won NCAA 3,000 titles, “A lot of those women have gone on to have professional careers and some really phenomenal careers at that. I am excited to be following their footsteps and hopefully continue down that path and have a pretty successful professional career.”

One local runner who has had a phenomenal career is Constantina Dita. The Erie resident won the Olympic marathon gold medal last summer in Beijing at age 38. When we read of records set by Barriner and Dita, it is sometimes easy to forget that their races were the culmination years of training, the fulfillment of dreams that started years — even decades — before.

That was one of the points made by Dita earlier this month when she helped honor Barringer as one of the 2008 Colorado Sportswomen of the Year. Dita presented Barringer with her award, and that moment was an apt juxtaposition of a world class runner at the peak of her athletic career with another on the cusp of a potential world class career.

In her speech at the awards ceremony, Dita described how as a 14-year old back in her native Romania she had dreamed of running professionally and perhaps some day racing in the Olympics. It took her, she said, “more than 20 years to make my dream come true in Beijing.”

Barringer has also taken years to become an NCAA champion, Olympian, and U.S. record holder in the steeplechase. She started out running in elementary school before getting serious about running in high school.

In 2007, she ran the same NCAA indoor 3,000 meters she won on Saturday, that year placing 12th in 9:23.5. In 2007, she made it to the World Championships in Osaka, Japan, but did not reach the finals. Following that race she took the gold at the DecaNation Championships, and then last year set the U.S. steeple record and made the finals of the Olympic steeplechase.

The commonality between Barringer and Dita?

Coaching. What is apparent in comparing the two runners is that both have knowledgeable, experienced coaches — CU’s Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs for Barringer, and Vali Tomescu for Dita. They all base their training on sound scientific methods, anchored by a weekly long run.

At the Sportswomen of the Year ceremony, Dita ended her talk by looking ahead to future champions, giving props to Barringer.

“Probably we will see some of the women sitting in this room tonight win their own medals and world championships,” said Dita. “Just look at Jenny Barringer from CU. Jenny ran in Beijing just a few hours after me last August. That day she made an incredible U.S. record in the steeplechase, even just age 21 and still a student at CU.

“Sure, she can win a medal in the London Olympics, maybe even the gold. Why not? All of us should dream of something big.”

Something to keep in mind as you continue your preparations for the Memorial Day Bolder Boulder 10K and other races the rest of the year. It is going to take hard work, patience — and some big dreams.