The 2018 Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame class includes All-Americans Steven Blackwood (baseball), two-time NBA champion and Olympic medalist Chris Bosh (basketball), veteran NFL defensive lineman Michael Johnson, Adriane Lapsley Butler (track and field), Kristi Miller-North (tennis) and Chan Song (golf), as well as longtime athletics fundraiser Jack Thompson.
Tickets are on sale for the annual Induction Dinner on Sept. 21 (reception at 6 p.m., dinner and program at 7 p.m.) at $125 each through Aug. 15, $150 after Aug. 15. They can be purchased online (click here), and questions about the dinner and tickets can be directed to Barb Dockweiler (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the Alexander-Tharpe Fund.
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
Adriane Butler never saw herself as a Hall of Fame-caliber athlete. While others saw it, the former Adriane Lapsley had a hard time believing she was good enough. That’s why finding out she was part of the Class of 2018 for the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame came as a shock to her.
Actually, her finding her way to the track may have been harder for the San Antonio, Texas, native than her finding excellence on it as an athlete then as a coach.
The Good Word: How did you start out in track?
Adriane Butler: “The first time I remember running was in fourth or fifth grade. My PE teacher in elementary school had two daughters around my age and they were running an all-comers meet and needed another relay leg. I went and we did a 4×100, maybe a 4×200. You paid $3 and you got to do as many events as you wanted to. I did the long jump and the high jump. Then I didn’t run again. I did soccer and basketball for the next four years. In seventh grade, after basketball season ended, all my friends were going to run track so I said, ‘I guess I’ll run track, too.’ I almost quit the first day because it was Texas and it was HOT.
I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to do this. This is really HARD.’ I almost quit, but my mom wouldn’t let me. I was too slow for the relays. I did high jump, and I started to get into hurdles. I was one of the smaller kids until about 10th grade. There were kids far faster than me. It made sense that they didn’t really want me on their relays.”
Adriane would go relatively unrecruited out of Brackenridge High School, but Georgia Tech track and field coaches Alan Drosky and Nat Page saw her potential. She shone once she found her niche – another recurring theme. Between 2003 and 2006, Butler ditched jumping and switched to sprints and hurdles, and she became a three-time All-American (60m indoors and twice in the 4×100 outdoors) and a six-time ACC Champion (twice in the indoor 60m, outdoor 100 and 4×100 relay), setting school records in Indoor 55m, outdoor 4×100, 4×200 relays that still stand.
TGW: Could you have seen this kind of success when you started at Georgia Tech?
Butler: “I just didn’t want to get sent home, honestly. I wasn’t that good coming out of high school, was not really highly recruited, but Coach Page and Coach Drosky, for some reason, thought I could be really good, so I just did what they told me to do, and it worked out way better than I expected. Coach Page thought I had some really good raw potential. He said, ‘You’re not really good, but I think if you fix a lot of things, you could be good at something.’
“Around the end of my sophomore year, I still didn’t necessarily think I was good, I just thought they really know what they’re doing, and I should probably try to max out on that opportunity. I changed events. It kind of started to click. I was like ‘Coach Page isn’t as frustrated with me every day.’ (laughs) But there was never a ‘Wow, you’re really good at this’ moment. It was kind of always, things are getting better, you’re picking things up.’ I feel like we were ALL doing those kinds of things, which I guess is reflected in the Hall of Fame. There are a lot of women from my time here that are in or going in.”
TGW: Which of your records are you most proud of?
Butler: “The 4×100 (44.00 set in 2004 with Dana Rogers, Ashlee Kidd and Amandi Rhett) means the most to me, because it wasn’t just me and, as I said, I wasn’t even fast enough for the relays in middle school and high school. I ran on the 4×400 in high school, which they ran significantly faster, literally the year I graduated (laughs). The 4×1, we worked together. We struggled together. I still talk to those women, two of them were bridesmaids in my wedding, one of them is already in the Hall of Fame (Ashlee Kidd, Class of ‘17). It’s not a mark that was kind of good for back then. I feel like it’s still a competitive performance.
“The (individual) one I’m most proud of is probably the 55, because I didn’t have the best start, I wasn’t ever super-confident in it. I didn’t consider myself particularly quick. Coach Page and Coach Drosky gave me every opportunity to be successful, more than I think most places would have. They literally flew me from one last-chance meet to another in an effort to qualify for National Indoors They didn’t have to do that. Coach Drosky said, ‘Whatever you need to do, let’s do that.’ Earning that kind of support and legitimacy is why I’m the most proud of it. I came a long way in that event.”
Butler proved a leader off the track, making a difference by serving on the Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB).
TGW: How beneficial was being involved in SAAB?
Butler: “SAAB became kind of an outlet. I got to do a lot of community service, I got to meet people from other teams that I probably wouldn’t have, and I got to know a lot of our administrators better. I don’t think that would have happened any other way. It definitely was worth the trade-off to kind of free time, which wouldn’t have been free, as I would have been stressing over homework. It helped me figure out when enough was enough, which is a good skill. I found some balance. I learned how to balance things and build relationships. So SAAB helped me a good bit.”
After graduation, Adriane took a job at a Best Western in Midtown to pay the bills while she continued to train. She wouldn’t stay there, or away from Georgia Tech, long.
Hall of Fame highlight reel - Adriane Lapsley Butler
TGW: How did your coaching career begin at Georgia Tech?
Butler: “In December (2006) I graduated, and I found a job at a hotel in midtown. I still wasn’t sure I wanted to be a coach, but I still loved being around Tech. I wasn’t ready to be done with track. Our sprint coach ended up leaving, and Coach Drosky called and he said, ‘Coach Page and I were talking, and I’ve talked to Coach Hinsdale. We have a position that we need to fill. We’d love for it to be an alum. I don’t know if you’ve thought about coaching.’ He paused and said, ‘You need to get your resume sent over.’ I said, ‘That seems really thorough for a volunteer.’ He said, ‘This is an actual coaching position. We would like for you to coach here!’ That was kind of when it hit me, again, Coach Page and Coach Drosky saw something in me that I didn’t necessarily see in myself. They saw the bigger potential. The next day I sent in my resume, all four bullet points of it. By July I was on campus getting ready to start coaching.”
TGW: What’s made you successful as a coach?
Butler: “I don’t think I was good because I’m good. I think I was good because of the opportunities I got. I know I wouldn’t have run as fast anywhere else. I was smart enough to know that I didn’t have all the answers. I feel like that kind of applies to how I coach. I don’t think I have all the answers. I think I can help you come up with a plan. Coach Page always says, ‘You need to be a student of the sport. You need to figure out what’s going on and figure out how to apply it.’ That’s how I coach. I could have tried to stay a long jumper. But that was not for me. Instead of beating my head against that wall Coach Page said, ‘Hey, I think you can be good at something else.’ That’s how I approach coaching. We’ve had kids, most recently (Marinice) ‘Nicey’ Bauman, she came in a hurdler from Ohio and by her senior year she became a pretty competitive pentathlete. She’s a 400 hurdler who’s qualified for the national prelims twice, and she trusted me enough to learn four other events. She just missed scoring at ACCs, but is on our all-time performance list.”
TGW: What were your emotions to seeing the school’s shuttle hurdles relay record broken (Jeanine Williams, Bauman, Kenya Collins and Raven Stewart shattered the record, of which Butler held a piece, in March’s Florida Relays, running 53.16 the ninth-fastest time in NCAA history)?
Butler: “I feel like that’s why you coach, to be better and improving and heading towards things that haven’t been done. I think it means more to me as a coach because, as an athlete, I didn’t always keep track of how much work was being put in behind the scenes. Coach Page coached more legs on that relay than I did — only one of my athletes was on it — but we worked really hard and it made me realize how invested good coaches are all the time. For the women that were on that relay, to see them get to be a part of Georgia Tech history, I know that feeling. It’s amazing. It’s something that 15 years from now, even if it gets broken, hopefully they keep in touch the way I keep in touch with the 4×1 and the women on the shuttle hurdle. To see someone else become a part of that means way more as a coach. I told them, ‘It’s both of our records now. We get to share it.’ There’s no downside to seeing Georgia Tech getting on the all-time list. Definitely as a coach, it’s just amazing. Those women came together on that day and they made something amazing happen. I’d like that every week.”
September 21 will be something that happens once in a lifetime, and Adriane will enjoy being recognized for being more than good enough by her husband — former Georgia Tech sprinter Cameron Butler — former teammates, and, of course, Coach Drosky and Coach Page.
TGW: Have you thought about your speech?
Butler: “I’ve started working on it. How often do you get to stand up — and I’m probably going to cry — in front of a room full of people who love Georgia Tech and love you and get to say, ‘Thank you for the opportunity!’? I’m going to say ‘Thank you!’ in as many ways as I can think of.”