Boone runner stays on heels of leader until very end
By Jeff Keeling
Daniel Boone High School senior Adam Barnard went to Portland, Ore. to win a Nike Cross Nationals cross country championship. After leaving everything on a rain-soaked, muddy course Saturday, he came away a first-team All-American.
The Georgetown University signee and winner of the Nov. 29 Nike Southeast Regional was the one on the heels of eventual winner Tanner Anderson of Spokane, Wash. until the final 200 meters. A set of short hills at that point in the course rises to two tee boxes on the Glendoveer golf course, and is where Anderson pulled away from a rapidly tiring Barnard.
By the time he made it to the finish, Barnard collapsed across the line in fifth at 15:24.34. He was still just two seconds out of fourth and four out of third, and as one of the top seven, a first-team All-American. He was the second overall runner from a qualifying team, and helped Boone to a 14th-place finish.
“He was telling me he didn’t expect to really have such an issue separating from me or from anyone, really,” Barnard said Monday of a post-race conversation with the winner. “He said several times in interviews that he thought he would be able to make a better move at two miles or something like that.”
That move came on those hills, when the deep mud punished Barnard’s tiring legs.
“I was the one with 3 or 400 meters to go that was still there. I was trying to make moves, but I was so tired and he’s such a phenomenal runner.”
Anderson, a four-time national qualifier, had tried to separate from the pack of elite runners at around the mile mark of the 5,000-meter (3.1-mile) race. He established some distance, but Barnard slowly reeled him in until he was within a few steps for much of the last mile.
“I kind of have this mental strategy that coach (Ray) Jones taught me that helps me reel in runners whenever they’re pulling away.” That has been an infrequent occurrence for the 2014 Tennessee state champion, and the strategy is not for publication, Barnard said with a grin.
While he might have been able to place a spot or two higher had he held something in reserve, Barnard has no regrets.
“I went to Portland to race to win. I’m happy, and I think my coaches are definitely pleased with the effort to race to win. I could have not made those moves to stay with him, and I probably could have been second or third, but if I wasn’t going to win, I wasn’t going to hand it over to him. I wanted to race him as hard as I could for as long as I could.”
It was long enough to catch plenty of attention from the announcers broadcasting the race, including an exciting live video feed. More than halfway through the race, Barnard in a group of about five runners ahead of the rest of the pack but behind Anderson, who was beginning his first separation. At nine minutes, the eventual runner up, Olin Hacker of Wisconsin, was on Anderson’s shoulder and the announcers were speculating the two might separate from the field. Barnard was fifth, but moving into fourth. By the 10-minute mark, Barnard was third. A minute later, the announcer said “and Barnard moved up really well to get up into second place, but now it looks like Anderson may be pulling away just a little bit.”
He added, however, that mentally it wears on a leader to not shake followers. “He had 10 meters at a mile-and-a-half. It’s three now.”
At 13 minutes, it was Barnard on Anderson’s heels and separation to third, with the announcer saying, “Adam Barnard will just not let loose.”
Seconds later, Barnard’s motion began looking more labored, and Anderson pulled several meters ahead. With Anderson a minute from his finish, he had opened up nearly a 10-meter lead, and eventual runner-up Hacker was about 10 meters further back.
By the end, Barnard was spent, but continuing to receive the announcers’ accolades, one of whom said, “A great job by Adam Barnard. Gave it everything he had and just ran out of energy before he ran out of territory.” The other announcer, a former NXN champion, applauded Barnard’s aggressive approach, saying it cost him only a couple individual spots at the end.
It left the Georgetown University signee an All-American, and had him hoping the underclassmen behind him and fellow senior James Garst will take up the mantle and keep Boone cross country at an elite level.
“Since I’ve been a sophomore I’ve kind of been leading this team emotionally and physically, in the training and getting everything organized. It will take one of (next year’s) seniors like Josh (Routh) or Mitch (Bronstetter) or somebody to step up and take that role. If no one takes that role it can spiral downhill just as quick as we went uphill.
“You have to put in the work and have the drive and the desire.”
That drive got the team the experience of a lifetime, Barnard said.
“We ran into all the Nike professional elite runners. Mo Farah, the two-time gold medalist in the Olympics (5,000 and 10,000 meters in 2012), Galen Rupp, the silver medalist (10,000, 2012).”
Combined with a duffel bag-load of Nike gear, the Nike campus, fine food and lots of attention, the total experience was enjoyable and unforgettable for Barnard and his teammates. It didn’t keep him from his focus, though.
“It never got so overwhelming that I couldn’t concentrate on what I was there to do.”