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How It Began - Angie’s Story Minimize

Indiana is a long, long way from the beach…

Golden Dome

So how does a girl from Indiana who grew up with cold winters and not a beach in sight end up in Southern California playing professional beach volleyball? Well, my story starts with indoor volleyball at the University of Notre Dame. (This gets complicated, so you are going to have to pay attention.)

I played indoor volleyball at Notre Dame for 4 years where I met Jeremy Akers. Two years later, we were married.

After I graduated from Notre Dame, I moved with Jeremy down to Atlanta, Georgia. I had my fill of indoor volleyball and did not pursue playing beyond the college level. In fact, I worked as a temp in several different offices and got my first taste of the corporate world. Six months after we were married, I was unexpectedly presented with the opportunity to play professionally in Switzerland. I saw this as an opportunity that I could not pass up. I did not miss playing volleyball, but this was a chance to see and live in a part of the world that I had never experienced.

When I returned to Atlanta, I started running. At first it was just two runs a week for 30 minutes. I liked it so much that I started running more and more. I eventually became addicted and I ran every day. I worked my way up to running over 50 miles a week. It became an obsession. I decided I would run a marathon, so my training became more and more intense.

Beach Run

My first ever road race was the Myrtle Beach Marathon. It was a pancake (flat) course, which is considered easy. I ran the race in 3 hours 39 minutes and 57 seconds. I realized when I finished that the qualifying time for the Boston Marathon (for my age group) was 3 hours and 40 minutes! I was ecstatic.

After the marathon, I tried to keep up the running, but I had too much pain in my right foot. I had a stress fracture and was forced to take time off. At the same time, we were going through a move from Atlanta to Oakland, California. I immediately began working at Lehman Brother in San Francisco.

San Francisco

The city provided so many great opportunities to compete. There were races all the time. I decided to run all sorts of road races and see which running length would be my strength. I ran every race around from the mile, to 5Ks, to 10Ks to 12Ks, to 10 miles, and finally the marathon. There were a few women in my running club that were running the Boston Marathon and it sounded really exciting to me. I did my research to see if I would still be eligible because of my time at the Myrtle Beach Marathon and I was. I had 3 days left before the deadline to sign up. I immediately sent in my application and was accepted. There were only 15,000 people accepted into the race, all had to qualify. This began a new training era for me.

From the time I sent in my application till race day there was 3 months. Thankfully I had been doing long runs all along, so I didn't have to worry too much about getting my legs ready for the pounding. The day I ran the Boston Marathon is one of the greatest days of my life.

Boston Marathon

The race is such a big deal in Boston. There are 500,000 spectators that are loud, rowdy, and so excited to be there. They line the streets 5 to 15 people deep the entire 26.2 miles! The environment is electric. There are several colleges and communities that the race runs through and the people there are so incredibly supportive. I will never forget running through Wellesley College and choking up because the yelling and screaming was so loud it was almost deafening. It literally took my breath away. I felt like I was floating. It was seriously the easiest race I have ever run. The people there just carry you. It is hard to explain the feeling, but hopefully everyone has a chance to feel that way at some point in their life.

When I finished the race, I was so overjoyed. I had so much energy left. I had finished in 3 hours and 24 minutes which beat my last marathon time by 15 minutes! All that time I prepared for the race and to think it came down to 3 hours and 24 minutes. It was one of the most enjoyable times in my life.

Boston Marathon
Boston Marathon medal

When I came back to San Francisco I was in the process of getting licensed as a Series 7 Broker (General Securities Representative). I took a 4 week intensive class, in addition to regular work hours, and then took the test. I passed the exam after being with the firm for a year and a half. That is when I got an interesting phone call.

My college teammate and roommate, Jaimie Lee, called me up out of the blue to see if I would be interested in moving to Southern California and giving Beach Volleyball a try. While I liked the people I worked with and the situation, I hated sitting at a desk all day long. It was very hard for me to be in an office before the sun came up and still be there when it set. I decided that it was something I wanted to try. We packed up and moved right away.

It was a very hard transition for me. I had been running long distance and couldn't remember the last time I tried to jump. It was a very long, slow process but it was a challenge that I was very excited about taking on. It got me out of an office, so I was willing to do anything to make it.

The hardest thing for me, initially, was finding anyone to play with. I randomly met Jeff Nygaard and he was nice enough to take time coaching me. He was there with me from the beginning. I think he taught me how to pick my feet up in the sand! Not too long after that, John Hyden started to join our group and the three of us would do drills and they would help me as much as they could. A few months later, Holly McPeak called my house looking for Jaimie. She was going to tell her about a rookie’s camp she was going to hold. I immediately signed up. Her camp was the turn-around point for me. I was introduced to some girls and Holly actually invited me to practice with her and her partner. Once people knew that I was going to Holly’s practices, they were open to the idea of practicing with me. When a rookie tells you how hard it is to break into the scene you better believe them.

Angie at net

I worked my butt off that year and had a very good season. I started off with Ashley Bowles. We didn’t qualify in our first event together. She was picked up by Liz Masakayan, so I had to scramble and find a new partner. I paired up with Jen Pavley and we finished the year together. We had to qualify in two more tournaments. In our second tournament together, we came through the qualifier (as the 23rd seed) then won our first three matches versus the 10th seed, the 7th seed (which was Liz and Ashley), and then the 2nd seed (Barbra Fontana and Dianne DeNeccochea) of the tournament! That secured us a 5th place which is where we finished. Everyone thought it was a fluke until the next tournament when we did the same thing! To top the year off, I was voted Rookie of the Year. It was a very exciting time for me and really gave me the confidence and the drive to, not only play this game, but to be one of the best!

So that is where I have come from. Who would have thought that this Indiana girl that hated to sweat and get sandy would ever succeed at a sport dominated by California girls? Not me.

Copyright 2010 by Angie Akers