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Fleet feat: Barrett's running exploits carry D-B senior to Nebraska

Pat Kenney • Nov 30, 2016 at 8:15 AM

KINGSPORT — When Dobyns-Bennett High School senior Bryce Barrett started running track in the third grade, he was just doing it for fun. He could never have imagined where it would lead.

Today at 3:30 p.m. inside the D-B Field House, Barrett will celebrate with his family, friends and coaches when he signs a letter of intent to continue his track career at the University of Nebraska.

“I started out just running with the Slipstream AAU track club in meets around the area and in Knoxville,” Barrett said. “It’s just something I really enjoyed.”

He realized he might do something special in the sport when he ran a time trial in the 400 meters while an eighth-grader at Robinson.

“They were trying to see which event you might be best at,” he said, “and so everyone just ran time trials in all the events. I ran a time of 54.0 and that turned out to be a school record, so I thought maybe I could do something in that event.”

And how.

As a freshman, Barrett ran a leg on D-B’s 4x400-meter relay state championship team.

The next year, with Barrett again on the relay, the Indians captured a second straight 4x400 state crown. He also finished second behind teammate Bryce Ailshie in the open 400 meters that same day.

This past spring, Barrett brought home an open 400 state championship of his own, edging Xavien Hughes of Germantown by a heartbeat. Barrett finished in a time of 47.83 with Hughes in his shadow at 47.84.

“That was a tough race,” Barrett said. “I didn’t have anything left when I crossed the finish line.”

Barrett is a standout in both the 100 and 200, but the 400 has become his domain.

“Mentally you know going into the race it’s going to be hard, so while I’m running I just focus on pumping my arms, keeping my form and not giving up,” he said.

“It’s pretty much a full sprint for 150 meters and then you have to begin to dig down deep. I’ll tell you, that last 50 meters of a 400 are pretty brutal, but I’ve learned how to deal with it.”

While at D-B, Barrett has had the luxury of having his father, Brian, as both his position coach in football and his event coach in track.

“That’s really been helpful for me,” the younger Barrett said. “We’ve been able to maintain two separate relationships. On the field he’s my coach and I’m the athlete. Off the field things are different. It’s more relaxed.

“He taught me at a young age what it took to be successful. I appreciate everything he’s done for me.”

After another spring of high school track, Barrett will be off to Nebraska in the fall to major in civil engineering and begin his collegiate track career.

“I really enjoyed my visit out there. It was like a family setting,” Barrett noted. “The facilities are great and the coach, Billy Maxwell, used to coach at Tennessee and has produced a number of All-Americans in the 400 and 4x400 relay.

“They’ve graduated three of their guys for the 4x400 relay team that was in the top five at the NCAAs last spring, so I have a shot at competing for a spot.”

In addition to making the jump from high school track to NCAA competition, the long trek from the Tri-Cities to Lincoln, Neb., will be a major transition for Barrett.

“My dad got to talk to the coach and was really excited about me going out there,” Barrett noted. “At first my mom didn’t want me to go that far away, but now she’s happy for me.”

Having had so much success in the sport, what advice might Barrett offer for up-and-coming track athletes?

“Stay focused,” he says. “Realize that if you want something special and amazing, you can’t get off the path. You have to work hard and if you do, everything will work out.”

Spoken like a champion.

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