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It’s Not Easy Keeping Up with Me’Lisa Barber
Track and Field  . 

It’s Not Easy Keeping Up with Me’Lisa Barber

by Brad Muller, Director of Content

It’s hard to keep up with former South Carolina sprinter Me’Lisa Barber (1998-2002), on and off the track. The former NCAA and World Champion is still competing and training at a high level, but she is also on the right track with several business and philanthropic ventures.

“I’m training for the 2021 Olympics,” said Barber, a 14-time All-American who is currently living in Los Angeles, Calif., after graduating in 2002 with a degree in business and retail management. “I also have my own jewelry line. It’s called The Honey Collection. It’s hand-made stones, and I’ve been doing that for about ten years now. I also have a juice company, and I make fresh juices. Everything is organic. I started that about three years ago. I also have a personal training company called Body Code; Unlock Your Greatness.

“My twin sister (former South Carolina All-American Mikele ‘Miki’ Barber) and I started a motivational speaking tour for kids in schools. We started that in 2018 and have spoken in over 200 schools.”

Barber is also active in raising funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease after seeing someone in her family suffer through it.  She joined her sister after Miki had set up a 10-mile charity bike ride event to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s and had more than 300 attendees from different parts of the country.

“I just kind of fit everything in,” Barber said. “Sometimes you have to be an entrepreneur and figure out ways to generate money and still give back to people.”

Barber noted that working with children is something she enjoys a lot.

“We talk about anti-bullying, conducing yourself well to your teachers, health and keeping your body active, and nutrition,” Barber said. “We talk about their feelings and how they’re feeling that day. We’ll turn it into a Q&A.  A lot of times it can be a real confidence-builder for them because other people are listening to them. We teach confidence.

“I love getting the responses. A lot of times when we do these motivational speaking tours, we do a kind of a talent show. What I enjoyed about that is a lot of the teachers may not have known that their students had so many different talents. The teachers learned a lot about their students. We still have a lot of communication with the students over the years on Instagram and things like that. We can still talk to them and try to be an influential part of their lives.”

“Representing our country is such an honor to me. I take that very seriously.”

Barber’s talent on the track was undeniable. She was a co-captain and part of the South Carolina’s 2002 National Champion women’s track and field team. She was also part of the Gamecocks 2000 national champion 4x400m relay team and won four SEC titles during her career. She also won a gold medal for Team USA at the 2001 World University games in the 4x400m relay along with her Gamecock teammates, Demetria Washington, Carolyn Jackson and her sister, Miki.

“What stands out the most to me about competing for the University of South Carolina was winning the 2002 National Championship with my teammates,” Barber said. “The coaches were phenomenal at South Carolina:  coach D (Delethea Quarles), coach Shaw, coach (Mike) Sergent, coach (Andrew) Allden, and (head) coach (Curtis) Frye. They’re still helpful to me to this day. They were tough on us, but they also taught us discipline and how to conduct yourself beyond athletics.”

Barber was no stranger to taking on different challenges, even as a competitor. While she normally ran the 100m as an individual, when Miki was injured and couldn’t run her race in the 400m at the 2002 NCAA Championships, Me’Lisa stepped in and stepped up, and ran a personal best while finishing as the national runner-up.

“I qualified for three events that year,” Barber said. “This was her first big injury. Coach Frye told me they were going to put me in the 400, and I was like, ‘I’m going to do terrible!’ We were having an amazing meet that year. We had a lot of depth at NCAAs. I was running the 400, and each round I was getting better and better. I wanted to prove myself and do it for my sister. I had a personal record by about two seconds, which was really big.

“My sister and I have always been competitive with each other. In college we ran different events, so we never really trained together then. Our competitiveness and our closeness taught us good sportsmanship. We know how to work with each other.”

Her success continued professionally as she competed for Team USA and won gold in the 4x400m relay at the 2003 World Championships in Paris, France, and was also part of the gold medal winning 4x100m relay team at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Finland.

“It means everything to wear a team jersey. Team USA, that’s something I always took pride in, and I still have my uniform from 2001 when I made my first World Championship team. To be able to wear it again, hopefully, would be amazing. Representing our country is such an honor to me. I take that very seriously.”

Despite being surrounded now by runners nearly 20 years younger, Barber, who claims to only be “a little bit over 30,” still holds her own on the track as she and Miki continue to train together.

“If you would have asked me this 20 years ago, this would not have been on the menu!” Barber said. “I thought I would feel old and not feel able to compete. I’ve learned to take each year by year. Things get harder, and you learn your body more. The main thing that keeps me going is I try not to put too much pressure on myself. There are certain things about taking care of my body and mindset that I’ve learned, and that age is really nothing but a number.”

With her calendar always being filled up, Barber offers advice to current student-athletes about making the adjustment to life after college simply by embracing the next stage of their lives and applying skills they learned as student-athletes as they go into the work force.

“A lot of times they go hand in hand, whether it’s discipline, teamwork, staying consistent or giving good feedback. Those are all things that we learn in being a good athlete.
“Making the transition from being an athlete is very challenging at first. Make the decision and let the other part go. Be OK with the decision you make. Get ready for changing your schedule.”

As she looks back at her collegiate career, being a national champion is something that she never gets tired of hearing.

“It still one of my biggest accomplishments,” Barber said. “I just remember the camaraderie we had with our team. I remember coming home, and at the time, we were the only (South Carolina) team to come home with a NCAA Championship. It’s still one of the highlights of my career, even over being a World Champion and U.S. Champion. I feel like that’s the top.”

Now seeing many women’s sports achieve greatness on a national level in track and other sports, Barber is as proud as ever to be a Gamecock.

“I’m still a major Gamecock fan. I still watch all the sports!” Barber said. “I’m a huge fan of (women’s basketball coach) Dawn Staley and (former Gamecock) A’ja Wilson, and (2019 track National Champion) Wadeline (Jonathas). It’s amazing seeing a lot of women’s sports excel, and I’m glad to be a part of the tradition.”

Barber will go to Eugene, Oregon, for the Olympic trials in June.