Olympic Sprinter Runs Track, College Prep Program

Sprinter Alainn Pompey has a busy schedule to say the least. Not only is the 400 meter specialist training for her fourth appearance at the Summer Olympics, she's also heading up the Armory College Prep program at the New Balance Track and Field Center in Manhattan. The program serves more than 200 underprivileged students a year and helps them get into college. When Pompey isn't running the track, she can be caught teaching, modeling, writing, coaching and consulting.

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ROBERT SIEGEL: Training for the Olympics requires an incredible amount of focus, time, and energy. Training for the Olympics while running a program that helps hundreds of New York City teenagers get into college, well, what can you say?

NPR's Sami Yenigun says wow.

SAMI YENIGUN, BYLINE: Check out Aliann Pompey's resume, she really is the woman who does it all.

ALIANN POMPEY: I was a teacher, a personal trainer, a development associate. I did fundraising, individual coaching, and then there was, you know, a couple or months where I thought I was going to be a renowned writer.

YENIGUN: And she's an Olympian. Right now Pompey, who's 34 years old, is getting ready for her fourth trip to the Olympics, where she'll run the 400 meters for Guyana. She trains six days a week. Oh, and she's the director of the Armory College Prep Program.

POMPEY: I can tell you a long list of people that think I'm absolutely nuts for doing that.

YENIGUN: Yeah, well, they may have a point. The Armory College Prep is a nonprofit that helps high school track and field athletes get into college. They're from about 30 high-needs schools close to The Armory Foundation's New Balance Track and Field Center in Manhattan, where the prep program is held.

Pompey fundraises, works with teachers, mentors students and manages a small staff. It's a big job. It could grind down someone who's, say, not training for the Olympics, but Pompey says she likes her double life.

ALIANN POMPEY: Both of them give me a lot of joy, you know, and on both sides of my life, there is something that makes me happy. There's something to look forward to in both, so it keeps me balanced that way.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRACK MEET)

YENIGUN: In the Manhattan College gymnasium, Pompey jogs beneath rows of emerald green banners and next to a scrimmage of some foul-mouthed ball players. Their scrimmage is getting heated, but she doesn't seem to mind. Listen to how controlled her breathing is.

(SOUNDBITE OF BREATHING)

JOE RYAN: I've always used the word, focus. I think she has a very, very intense focus.

YENIGUN: That's Joe Ryan. He's been Pompey's coach since she went to school here in the late '90s. While Pompey stretches her legs, he and I chat about her form and training regimen. He says the thing about the 400 is that it's an endurance sprint, so training is about finding the right balance between speed and strength, but Pompey's getting a little trigger happy right now.

RYAN: Do me a favor and slow it down a little bit. It's very early in the morning, OK? You know, you're running a little bit too quick.

POMPEY: All right.

YENIGUN: Ryan says the person who wins the 400 is the person who slows down the least.

Back at the Armory a couple days later, Pompey's still running at full steam.

POMPEY: Maybe we'll walk to there again.

YENIGUN: As she walks around her office, she swaps hellos with some of her students, all of whom she knows by name. Some of these kids, like Anthony Bailey, know that she's an Olympic sprinter.

ANTHONY BAILEY: Ms. Pompey - she be - she's a little shock demon on the low and then when she go on the field, beating everybody that comes her way. I'm like, oh, God, I ain't messing with her. She going to run me over like a bulldozer.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

YENIGUN: But others, like Alexander Candio, aren't so sure.

ALEXANDER CANDIO: I honestly don't believe that she can run. I want to see her run. I want her to prove to me that she can run.

YENIGUN: Pompey says she doesn't want to make a big deal out of her running, but Alexander Candio's classmates want to prove to him that she is a big deal, so they pull up YouTube.

CANDIO: Really? That's her right there?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Yeah.

CANDIO: Oh, wow.

YENIGUN: So you believe it now?

CANDIO: I believe now.

YENIGUN: Allian Pompey is standing right there, but she's not paying attention to this computer. She's busy helping a student log onto another computer to see his test scores.

With so much going on, I asked her if she ever has time to just chill.

POMPEY: I'm scheduled for fun in September of 2012. I'm going to have all the fun in the world, let me tell you.

YENIGUN: If Pompey takes her fun as seriously as she takes the rest of her schedule, then I'm trying to hang at her party. Sami Yenigun, NPR News.

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