Off Campus: Five-sport athlete Tristin Burris rarely slows down

The busiest college athlete in America? Wesley's Tristin Burris plays field hockey, runs cross-country and track, plays softball, and picked up lacrosse her sophomore year.
The busiest college athlete in America? Wesley's Tristin Burris plays field hockey, runs cross-country and track, plays softball, and picked up lacrosse her sophomore year.
Posted: September 20, 2012

Almost at the end of cross-country practice, Tristin Burris came running up, asking her coach, "We still going?" "Sure," Stephen Kimes told Burris, giving her the workout.

Field hockey practice had just ended across the street. Burris was on the run from one sport to another.

"She didn't even stop running," Kimes said. "Boom, gone. We did four one-mile repeats. No break, no water, nothing."

Burris may be the busiest college athlete in America. The senior at Wesley College in Dover, Del., has lettered in five sports, six if you want to count indoor track and spring track separately.

She's played field hockey, run cross-country, and run track all four years. She has lettered twice in softball and picked up lacrosse her sophomore year, though she was new to the sport. She turned down a Division I scholarship in another sport, soccer.

"It's really hard for me to sit still, obviously," Burris said. "I've got to be on the move. I didn't want to give up all the other sports, didn't want to have to focus on just one sport."

In high school, Burris played soccer and basketball and in her spare time kicked for the football team. (Only as a backup, she said, although she did get in some games and remembers making a 40-yard field goal in practice.)

Her standard day, Burris said, starts between 3 and 4 a.m. "It depends on how much homework I still have to do," she said. She usually begins with a home workout followed by an 8- to 10-mile run as the rest of her house sleeps.

"Pretty much everyone else in the neighborhood is asleep," Burris said, laughing. "A lot of times, I'll be the one waking up the roosters."

Everyone at Wesley realizes they are watching something special. Burris is a starter in her team sports and considers them the priority when there is a conflict. She finished 11th in her first cross-country meet, easily tops among Wesley's runners, and was the only one of the top 32 runners in the meet who wasn't from a Division I school.

"I don't know how she does it," said Wesley lacrosse coach Debbie Windett. "I don't know how there are enough minutes in the day, but she somehow manages to do it all."

On Windett's cellphone, the coach doesn't list Burris under her last name. She's in the Ws on the contact list, under "Tristin Super Woman."

Burris insists she isn't running from anything. Her high metabolism was always part of her.

"I remember on a trip her first year with us, she warned me that she would be getting up early to go work out, just in case people were looking for her," said Wesley field hockey coach Tracey Short, who considers Burris the most driven athlete she has ever coached.

Short admitted she was surprised since Wesley had a game that day, but she saw that was standard for Burris and believes the cross-training aspects of her college career have been an advantage.

"If she were doing the same thing over and over, I believe she would have run into more injury over her career," Short said. "With the differences and the ability to use different muscle groups, she has been able to continue to play everything she enjoys and for the most part, be injury-free."

Not that Burris is interested in stopping for aches and pains. She admits to being "hardheaded."

"If I have a pulled muscle or something, everyone tells me I need to relax, go get some ice," Burris said. "Instead I think it helps to just punch the pain and just keep running."

She figures she averages three to four hours sleep a night but gets "power naps" in her car between classes. Burris commutes from nearby Camden, Del.

"In whatever she does, she's always been very determined, very driven, very disciplined," said her mother, Carolyn Burris. "She goes at sports like other people socialized or partied. I don't want to say it consumed her, but it defined her."

She worried about her daughter overdoing it, Carolyn Burris said, but found Tristin could unwind and relax as an artist in times of stress. "She'll pick up her brush," her mother said.

Her best sport?

"I don't know. I guess probably field hockey," Burris said. "That's a tough question.''

Toughest sport to pick up?

"Probably basketball, even though I'm a tall girl. You'd expect me to be pretty adept at it," said Burris, who is 5-foot-11. "Because of the plays. The other sports, everything was outside on a field. Putting me inside on a basketball court was a real change in environment."

But she thought basketball helped her when she picked up a lacrosse stick for the first time sophomore year at Wesley. "A lot of the plays are very similar, the picks, the motion," she said.

She had intended to go out for basketball at Wesley, she said, but found that field hockey season ran past the first game.

There are a few sports she hasn't tried at Wesley. What about volleyball? She plays in an adult league in the summer. Tennis? She fools around with friends. "My grandmother has always wanted me to play tennis. That's always been her goal."


"Just minigolf," Burris said. "I get too - I don't want to say aggressive when I play minigolf - but that might be the right word. No one is allowed to talk. I get mad if I miss my putt. You don't want to minigolf with me unless you want to fight."

The 1,500 meters has been her primary track distance, but Kimes intends to have her run 10,000 meters and maybe double up at 5,000 meters this spring. And nobody expects all this to stop at graduation. Burris still plays in a coed summer softball league. She knows triathlons and marathons could be in her future.

Plus, Burris added, "whatever else I can find to keep me busy.''

Contact Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or Follow @Jensenoffcampus on Twitter. Read his "Off Campus" columns at


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