She even attempted a comeback when she went into training for the 2008 Olympic team after retiring from the sport in 1988. If she had made it, at age 47 she would have been the oldest woman ever to compete for the U.S track and field team.
That determination probably was no surprise to those who knew her when she was growing up in Harriman, Tenn. She was the sixth of seven children, and even though she was the only member of the Harriman High School track team, she still won a team state championship. She also played basketball and was a cheerleader.
She says both she and Joyner-Kersee can still show athletes how a particular event should be done.
“I still hurdle. The thing about hurdling, and any other event, is that most people are visual learners,” she said. “If you see someone do it correctly, then they can do it. If you just tell someone something and don’t show them, they can’t do it.”
Barksdale has coached national junior teams at Kentucky State and worked as a volunteer assistant at Paul Dunbar High School. She has officiated at local meets.
She also coached numerous individual athletes, including Nealy Williams of Bryan Station who won both Class AAA hurdle races at last weekend’s state championship meet and is at the camp that runs through Wednesday.
“I have coached her since seventh grade,” Barksdale, who specializes in the hurdles along with the long jump and triple jump, said. “I love doing this. It is why I have stayed involved with USA Track & Field and why I have been involved with every team from junior world championships to the Pan-American Games to the 2008 Olympics.”
She moved to Lexington in 1996 because of a promise she made to her brother, Val, an all-SEC defensive back at Tennessee. He died of pancreatic cancer in 2006 at the UK Medical Center.
“Him and his wife moved to Lexington in 1984. He tried to get me to move for years,” she said. “I told him if UK ever won a national championship, I would move. Rick Pitino won one in 1996, and I moved to Lexington on the Fourth of July in 1996.
“I am a UK fan now as long as they are not playing Tennessee. If they play Tennessee, then that is different.
Her boyfriend, body-builder Demetrius Robinson, is also working at the camp this week and she says too often young athletes don’t understand the importance of weight training.
“A lot of kids don’t know that proper weight training is a big part of running and jumping,” she said. “That’s the part he is telling them. That is something most kids don’t understand at all.”
She’s also stressing that hard work can help any athlete improve and compete at a higher level.
“You can take an ordinary person and if they have heart, desire and dedication, then they can make it happen,” Barksdale said. “I have taken athletes without great natural talent and seen them really develop.
“I took one girl who did not know how to even do the hurdles and she did well this year. She was so excited just to be able to place fourth, because she did not ever think she could do it. To me, that is as heart-warming as coaching a state champion, and that’s what this camp is all about — helping each person improve.”