Volunteer star hurdler Sam Barton competes in the 2013 Times-News Relays on Friday, May 3 at Sullivan North High School in Kingsport. (Ned Jilton II photo)
KINGSPORT — Friday night at Sullivan North, Volunteer’s Sam Barton wrapped up his Times-News Relays career the same way he started it: with gold dangling from his neck.
The Falcons senior collected a Relays grand slam in the 300 hurdles, winning that event for the fourth consecutive year.
Running in cool, windy conditions that were somewhat less than optimal, Barton galloped off with the gold in under 40 seconds, logging a 39.91.
“Coach always tells me to start out as hard as I can and just have the heart and desire at the end to push it out,” said the Hawkins County hurdler. “I can’t worry about all the other people or saving my stamina. I’ve just got to run my race. And that’s what I did.”
He’d hoped to better his personal best of 39 flat. But in the final analysis, he got what he came for.
“There is a little extra pressure on me here, because I’ve been winning this for so long,” Barton said. “I feel like there is a big target on my back and everyone expects me to win. It means I’ve got to stride. I’ve got to practice extra hard and run extra hard.”
The 110s were also his for the taking. He took his second T-N Relays gold medal in that event with a 14.48.
“It’s been a pretty exciting four years. Now that I’m a senior, every one of these count. I’ve been real emotional. I’m just trying to strut my stuff while everybody is trying to beat me,” said Barton, who also ran legs on Volunteer’s bronze medal-winning 4x100 and 4x200 relays.
The talented Church Hill athlete, who was recently honored as a Tennessee Eastman Scholar-Athlete, has been a three-sport standout during his four years at Volunteer.
Barton was an All-Big 8 Conference selection in football for two consecutive seasons, playing at running back, wide receiver and defensive back for the Falcons.
“In basketball I’ve played forward, I’ve played big man. I’ve really played everything except for point guard, honestly,” Barton said.
“My parents always tried to get me to play baseball. But it’s too slow a sport for me. I’m glad I chose track over baseball. As it turned out, I’m pretty good at it.”
Barton expects to attend college, his life goal being a career in sports management or athletic administration.
But while he’s had a few looks from small football programs, he’s yet to receive any serious inquiries with regard to track and field.
Before his senior season wraps up, he hopes to catch a track recruiter’s eye.
“I really want to run track because my body really isn’t built for football. I’ve had three shoulder injuries and two surgeries,” Barton said. “Track is really my sport.”