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Hall of Famer Angela Payne Starnes loves teaching as much as running

April 9, 2018 FieldsColumn


Angela Payne Starnes and her husband Al are retiring after teaching and coaching the last 27 years at Crittenden County. (Photo by Mike Fields)

BY MIKE FIELDS (April 9, 2018)

Angela Payne Starnes will be retiring at the end of this school year, giving up her duties as an elementary school physical education teacher.

And her duties as a high school/middle school athletic director.

And her duties as a track & field coach.

And her duties as a cross country coach.

And her duties as a school bus driver.

With all the running she does to keep up with five jobs, it should come as no surprise that Starnes was a championship runner in her younger days.

As a high school track star at Todd County Central, Angela Payne won seven state titles.

As a sophomore in 1978, she was the 440-yard champ and part of the winning 4×100 relay.

As a junior she captured the 400-meter dash and another 4×100 victory.

As a senior she swept the 400, 200 and 100 sprints.

Payne’s winning time of :12.20 in the 100 meters still stands as the Class A state record.

Those accomplishments, along with nearly three decades in coaching and sports administration at Crittenden County, earned Angela Payne Starnes a spot in the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame. Induction ceremonies are April 21 in Lexington.

Starnes doesn’t know where her talent on the track came from, but “my mom said when I took my first step I took off running. I’ve always been a runner and I’m still a runner. That’s my thing.”

These days, instead of sprints, the 55-year-old Starnes is training for and running marathons and half-marathons.

“I’d probably still do sprints if there were track meets for old women,” she said with a laugh.

Angela Payne in her high school days at Todd County Central.

As a high school athlete, Starnes said track (and her coach Bob Jones) taught her a work ethic and made her goal-oriented.

“My hard work paid off and I got to run at the next level (at Murray State).”

While in college, she met her future husband, Al Starnes, who played football at Murray State.

Theirs was a perfect match: athletes who got into coaching and teaching. They’ve now been married 32 years, and have spent the last 27 together at Crittenden County. (Their daughter Lonna teaches and coaches at McCracken County.)

Al is the Rockets’ all-time winningest football coach, with 175 victories.

He is also retiring at the end of this school year because, as the couple like to joke, they do everything together.

That includes fighting cancer.

In August of 2013, Al was diagnosed with colon cancer. Two months later, Angela was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“You just hear the word ‘cancer’ and it’s so scary,” she said. “You just don’t know what to expect. For both of us, that was one of the most difficult times we’ve had. And we know it was a difficult time for our daughter.”

Al said he and his wife were there for each other.

Angela Payne Starnes said her first love is teaching physical education.

“Since we’ve always done everything together, we decided to get through cancer and chemo together,” he said. “It was a trying time, but by standing by one another we were able to pull through it.”

Angela’s goal-oriented mindset and love for running also helped her beat the disease.

“As soon as I was diagnosed, I went online and found a race (DONNA Marathon in Florida) that dealt with breast cancer, that raised money to find a cure.

“I even made a copy of the medal with my name under it. That was my goal. I was going to get through (breast cancer) and run that marathon.”

In February, 2015, she did just that.

With retirement just a few months away, Starnes is looking forward to a more relaxing schedule. She and Al are selling their Crittenden County home and moving to a house on Lake Barkley near the Tennessee border that they’re remodeling.

But Starnes said she hopes to keep teaching young kids.

“Physical education, that’s my first love,” she said. “It’s what I’ve always loved doing.

“Having done it (at Crittenden County) for 27 years … when I see my babies grow up and play soccer, golf, basketball or anything, I’m just tickled they find their little niche at a higher level.”

Al Starnes thinks his wife’s Hall of Fame credentials — those seven state titles — speak for themselves. “But for her to be in education and coaching for 32 years, and still love it today like she loved it when she first started, that says a lot, too.”

Angela Payne Starnes credits her mother, Brenda Payne Chastain, for helping her find her niche.

“Bless my mom’s heart,” she said. “She sent me to tap, ballet, baton, art . . . She tried to find what my talent was, and she finally put me on a track, let me run and found out that was my gift.”

A gift that has kept on giving all these years.


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