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Bruins in Paris

Student’s track and field club team mixes social, competitive aspects

(Hannah Ye/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Mila Abushmaies and Jillian Frankel

Oct. 7, 2015 2:58 a.m.

Amberly Bark helped create a club track and field team this fall to organize practices and workouts for students who want to run competitively, but without the demands of an NCAA Division I team.

USA Track & Field-licensed coach Jeffrey Fisher will prepare comprehensive workouts for the club team, but Bark said students who just want to get in shape are also welcome. Participants meet for official practices at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and unofficial practices are held Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Bark, the team’s treasurer and a second-year civil engineering student, said she met most of her close friends on high school track and cross country teams. Bark added she wanted to create a social atmosphere at UCLA that also included a competitive element.

“The most important aspect of the club is the team atmosphere,” Bark said. “We really wanted to focus on having a group of close teammates that enjoy running together, but can compete if they want.”

“I thought about joining the UCLA track team since I was so involved in the sport in high school, but I wanted to make academics my first priority,” she said.

Bark said she realized as a child that her interests spanned from running with friends to working in service organizations. She now holds leadership positions in Bruin Belles Service Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the newly formed club track team.

Ashley Bark, Amberly’s older sister, said their parents encouraged them both to be involved in one activity outside of school and spent years driving their daughters to Girl Scouts meetings, track practice, as well as singing and instrument lessons, but Amberly always wanted to take on more. As long as she maintained good grades, her parents supported her in trying new things, including running.

“Ever since she was little, she was involved in a million different things, like track, cross country and singing,” Ashley Bark said.

Ashley Bark added her parents didn’t want her or her sister to settle into any one activity too early, and hoped they would use their teenage years to find out what they were most interested in. Bark soon discovered that her interests weren’t limited to academics or track.

“We’ve been given a lot, so she wants to give back,” Ashley Bark said.

Bark came to UCLA unsure whether civil engineering was the right choice, but joining the American Society of Civil Engineers as a first year assuaged her uncertainties. She said she found a group of students in ASCE whose passion ignited her own.

ASCE members practice what they love outside the classroom and develop their skills by applying engineering concepts to several projects, Bark said.

“Joining a lot of organizations helped me meet so many new people,” Bark said. “It makes the school seem more like a home rather than a swarm of 40,000 students.”

Bark said last year’s ASCE members designed and raced aerodynamic watercraft in ASCE’s national Concrete Canoe Project, her favorite event thus far. The UCLA ASCE chapter raced in the South Carolina finals in June and finished fourth in the co-ed category, after competing against the top 21 teams in the nation.

Former ASCE president and current project manager Max Armenta said he was pleasantly surprised to see Bark actively coming to club events when she was a freshman, because the club usually attracts older students who are looking for networking opportunities.

As a first year, Bark also joined Bruin Belles, a philanthropy and leadership group of women who perform community service, and is now a distinguished member. Distinguished Belles act as liaison position between the executive board and general members, said Allison Grenda, a third-year communications studies student and a public relations director for Bruin Belles.

“It’s hard for freshman to get into Belles, so that says a lot right away,” Grenda said. “When I heard about (Bark starting) the track club, I was impressed but not surprised.”

Bark said the decision to lead so many different organizations came naturally as a result of the memories she made with new friends as a freshman, even though doing so requires a significant time commitment.

“I really want to make UCLA my home and fill it with things I love,” Bark said. “Of course there are going to be late nights and I’m going to get stressed, but it’ll be worth it.”

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