|2017 NCAA Division III Men's Outdoor Track Championships|
|Event Dates||May 25-27, 2017|
|Event Location||Geneva, OH|
|Live Results||Live Results|
|Live Video - Thursday, May 25||Day One Video|
|Live Video - Friday, May 26||Day Two Video|
|Live Video - Saturday, May 27||Day Three Video|
By Ernie Larossa
Associate Director of Athletics/Director of Athletic Communications
At some point Saturday afternoon, after the last event at the 2017 NCAA Division III Track and Field Championships has concluded, Andrew Bartnett will take off his Johns Hopkins track uniform for the final time.
Like many of the all-time greats in the history of Blue Jay athletics, Barnett’s career seems to have gone by in a flash. Can it really be four years since he arrived at Homewood?
The records, awards, conference titles and All-America finishes at the NCAA Championships? Let’s face it - we took those for granted while he was here. Now, the time is short and we have only ourselves to blame if we didn’t realize that perhaps the greatest men’s track and field athlete in school history was in our midst.
Bartnett will compete in the Decathlon on the first two days of the championship and the Pole Vault, his signature event, on the final day. If you thought the last four years went quickly, the 52 or-so hours he’ll compete this weekend will go by quicker than a hiccup.
A native of St. Louis, Bartnett was sold on Johns Hopkins first by the academics - he graduated this week with a degree in Mechanical Engineering - and then by the track program.
“I jumped into the college search without really knowing where I wanted to go, but I knew I wanted to do engineering,” Bartnett stated. “I didn’t know I wanted to do track until my junior year in high school, when I broke through that ceiling in Pole Vault and thought this could be fun to do for the next four years. When I took my visit here, I loved it. The team atmosphere was awesome; in a day-and-a-half I met most of the team and they were very close; that dynamic was different than most of the other places I visited.”
The men’s track program at Johns Hopkins had incrementally gained momentum under the guidance of head coach Bobby Van Allen, but hadn’t made a dent at the national level prior to Bartnett’s arrival.
As chance would have it, Bartnett was there when the breakthrough happened. He placed 10th at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the Pole Vault as a freshman; senior Andrew Carey placed second at the same championship in the 800-meter run. The program’s momentum had taken a big leap.
Just over two months later, the pair led Johns Hopkins to an 18th-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships as Bartnett vaulted to bronze and Carey earned gold in the 800. In essence, Carey secured a spot on the podium for Johns Hopkins in the winter and was joined there by Bartnett in the spring; three years later, he’s never left.
Fast forward and Bartnett has known nothing but top three finishes in the Pole Vault at the NCAAs as he added two national runner-up finishes and a third-place showing indoors and another bronze medal finish and one silver at the outdoor championships.
If he had done nothing more than compete in that one event, Bartnett’s career would rank among the best in school history. That, however, is not Andrew Bartnett.
That Barnett would want to do more isn’t surprising when you consider his sports of choice as a youngster.
“I played basketball, soccer, baseball, volleyball – pretty much played every sport except ice hockey,” he noted. “I just wanted to do everything. A lot of kids might say “I don’t get to hang out because I’m always at practice”, but I loved practice – loved being at games.”
Barnett attributes his athletic drive and ability to his mom, Cheryl, and dad, Neil. Cheryl was a gymnast at Southeast Missouri State, while his dad was an accomplished soccer goalie in high school.
“I think I get my general athleticism from my dad, but my pole vaulting comes from my mom; her being a gymnast and having that body awareness is something that comes from her.”
As the indoor season morphed into the outdoor season a year ago, Bartnett became more intrigued with the Decathlon. He had dabbled with some of the events and, like a typical Hopkins student, began doing his research.
“We had joked about me doing a decathlon, but one night I got onto the USATF calculator and was plugging in some potential scores – some in events I had done and some I hadn’t – and I looked at that score and thought maybe this is something I should do,” Bartnett noted. “I tried to put in conservative scores because I had never done one and the Decathlon is pretty grueling – you’re not going to PR in every event – even with that I still thought this might be something to try.”
With his data in-hand, he reached out to Alex Jebb, himself a former Blue Jay standout and the man charged with training the Johns Hopkins multis, and inquired about training with them with the idea of competing in the Decathlon.
It hadn’t taken Bartnett long to wiggle his way onto the national stage in the Pole Vault, it took him even less in the Decathlon.
The Decathlon. You know, the gold standard of mental and physical toughness in the track world. Ten events in two days. Being great at one, which Bartnett is, is helpful. Being good at each is difficult, if not impossible, in a short period of time.
Impossible doesn’t have a place in Bartnett’s vocabulary. He won his first Decathlon at the 2016 Centennial Conference Outdoor Track Championships with a school and league-record point total of 6,493. The mark qualified him for the NCAA Championships, where he would simultaneously compete in his two events.
It’s hard to say if Bartnett could have won either if the championship schedule didn’t have him taking on the first five events of the Decathlon while darting over to Pole Vault between those five on day one. What’s certain is that Bartnett placed third in the Pole Vault and found himself in sixth place in the Decathlon after the first day.
He slipped from sixth to 11th after the first two events on the final day, but he had an ace up his sleeve. The eighth event in the Decathlon is the Pole Vault and Bartnett did what Bartnett does – he nailed it, and jumped nine spots in the standings to second place with two events remaining.
Still, the national title proved elusive as he finished with silver by a margin of just 42 points. Ten months later, in the seven-event Heptathlon at the 2017 NCAA Indoor Championships, he added yet another silver as he finished with 5,238 points – just nine points shy of national champion Jack Flood of Cortland.
There was always another meet, always another championship – there was always next year. Except now, there’s not. Bartnett will make a run at two national championships this weekend in Geneva, Ohio. He could win either, both or none. Regardless, his place in Johns Hopkins track history is secure and those who have watched him compete were the winners, although they may not have known it at the time.
It’s already been quite a week for Bartnett, who picked up his diploma in a special one-person graduation ceremony with University President Ron Daniels on Monday afternoon. The ceremony was necessitated by his travel schedule for this week’s NCAA Championships and was attended by his parents and grandparents along with teammates and friends.
The ceremony itself went by quickly, just like the four years we were fortunate enough to have Bartnett compete in the Hopkins Blue and Black.
Don’t blink in the next three days as you tune in to watch Bartnett compete at the NCAAs. Before you know it, the greatest track athlete in school history will take that uniform off for the final time and you’ll have only yourself to blame for missing him.
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