Longtime assistant Audrey Pope-Trowbridge promoted to head track coach at LHS

photo by: Kyle Morgison

Audrey Pope-Trowbridge coaches during the 2021 season as an assistant for the Lawrence High track and field program. Pope-Trowbridge was promoted to head coach on Monday after coaching sprinters for 15 season. Photo by Kyle Morgison, who is an assistant coach on the track team.

When Audrey Pope-Trowbridge was attending Lawrence High about 20 years ago, she wrote down a big goal in her journal: One day, she would become the head coach of the Lions’ track and field team.

Earlier this week, she finally made that dream a reality. She’s stepping up to the program’s top job after serving as an assistant for 15 seasons.

The head coach spot was left vacant in June when the previous coach, Jack Hood, decided to leave the coaching ranks.

“It’s surreal, and it’s exciting,” Pope-Trowbridge said. “To be able to be a part of a program as long as I have been, and to now be able to lead it — I mean, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

Pope-Trowbridge, 36, graduated from Lawrence High in 2003. When she was a student there, she played multiple sports — including a starting role on the basketball team in her senior year — but track always held a special place in her heart. She narrowly missed out on a state championship in the 300 hurdles during her time on the track team.

After attending Jackson State University, Pope-Trowbridge came back to Lawrence and started working with the track program in 2007, the year that Hood took the reins. Since then, she’s been coaching the team’s sprinters, and she’s also served as an assistant on LHS’ volleyball staff. In addition to her coaching roles at LHS, she’s also a social worker at Free State High School, and leads the district step team.

The sprinters are the largest group of athletes on the track team, so Pope-Trowbridge got plenty of opportunities to prove her skills as a leader. As she got more comfortable in her role, she said Hood started giving her more responsibilities.

“He was big on trusting me, not micromanaging me and also holding me accountable,” Pope-Trowbridge said.

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Now that she’s in charge, Pope-Trowbridge wants to emphasize one of her favorite aspects of track — that everyone has a chance to shine.

“This, to me, is a community win,” Pope-Trowbridge said. “It’s about being a product of USD 497 and celebrating every single person who comes through the program. Track is a no-cut sport, so that in and of itself, makes it special because everybody gets a shot.”

The Lions have been competing at a high level in recent years, as Pope-Trowbridge knows from her time as an assistant. At one point, the girls 4×400-meter relay team won four consecutive state titles, and the girls track program as a whole won back-to-back state titles in 2018 and 2019.

One of Pope-Trowbridge’s immediate goals is to strengthen the boys team and make sure that both squads perform well in the postseason. But on a larger scale, she wants to build excitement around the program and get more people interested in competing.

“I just want to increase the excitement around track and field altogether because it is the sport that anybody can come out for and it doesn’t matter,” Pope-Trowbridge said. “It’s just an opportunity for anybody to come out and be competitive. I think getting that message across will help build the sport.”

But perhaps her biggest goal is to make sure the current generation of Lions can get the benefits that she got from competing in track.

“It kind of feels like everything just came full circle,” Pope-Trowbridge said. “I’ve been wanting this since I was a kid, looking up to the people who were before me. They’ve always been just role models and outstanding people that pour into me and kind of taught me to believe in myself.”

“I always wanted to kind of pay it forward and do that for other kids,” she added. “It’s crazy and unbelievable that I get this opportunity.”


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