SNU Instructor trains as Triathlete

     SNU instructor, Bethany Handley, is busy by day, teaching English as a second language to international students in the SNU Center for Applied Studies in English.  While teaching international students at SNU makes life interesting for her, the challenge of Bethany’s life extends far beyond the classroom.

Bethany represented Oklahoma recently at the Best of the U.S. Amateur Triathlete Championship in California, where she won the competition.  In besting the field — by almost two full minutes — that included one elite qualifier from each of the 50 states, Handley further established herself as one of the top amateur triathlete in the country. She was already the defending national champion in the 25-29 age group for the Olympic Distance Triathlon.

“This event is as good as it gets — representing the best of the best in amateur triathlete,” said Jerry MacNeil, co-founder of the Best of the U.S. “For Bethany to perform the way she did, I believe proves she is ready to move on to the next level.”

A few days after capturing her latest and most distinguished title on Sept. 27, Handley officially turned pro and launched the next phase of her competitive career at the Toyota U.S. Open Triathlon. And while it did not turn out to be a memorable debut in terms of success, the 28-year-old Tennessee native is excited about what the future holds.

“This was my goal from the beginning: to eventually turn pro and compete at the highest level,” said Handley. “I wasn’t sure how long the process would take, but I knew I eventually wanted to do (International Triathlon Union) races.”

After spending much of her life competing in cross country, track and swimming — including a four-year stint on the University of Tennessee swim team — Handley took a teaching job in China that put her athletic career on indefinite hold.

“I never really thought I’d be competing again after college, especially after I moved to China. I just kind of figured that was a closed chapter in my life,” she said.

But once she returned to the United States, Handley found the competitive fire still burned after her brother talked her into running a Thanksgiving Day marathon in 2006. She won the race that day and soon after, decided to start training again.  In October 2007, Handley began her “comeback” and has spent the last year-and-a-half working to become an elite triathlete.

Bethany and her husband, Stephen, have lived in Oklahoma City for just 11 months.  He is studying to be a Medical Physicist at the University of Oklahoma, and she began her ESL teaching responsibility at SNU shortly afterward. 

“Bethany’s experience in China has definitely helped to prepare her for teaching international students at SNU,” said Dayna Ford, SNU Center for Applied Studies in English director.

“Training in all three events — swimming, biking and running — complement each other and has made me a better overall athlete,” said Handley, who squeezes in as much training time as she can after school and on weekends.  However, now that she has opted to take her game to the next level and compete on the pro circuit, she will probably have to be even more resourceful in how she trains and prepares for future events.

“It’s definitely going to be a challenge finding ways to train more effectively in order to successfully compete as a pro,” she said. “I got a taste of what the competition is going to be like in my first pro race. Even though I did not do very well, it was a great experience. I am definitely looking forward to what the future holds.”

For more information on the Center for Applied Studies in English and the opportunity it affords international students at SNU, visit

--OK Gazette, Jay C. Upchurch.