Warmed up to running, Barksdale has taken off

Oakland Mills: Nudged into track by his parents, Chris Barksdale has discovered an ability to run away - from his sprinting foes.

January 13, 2002|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Chris Barksdale of Oakland Mills was always one of those kids who had athletic potential written all over him.

At 6 feet 2 and 175 pounds, his high school football coach tried hard to recruit him. Even his mother wanted him to play football.

But the shy youth, whose chief childhood interest was dinosaurs, resisted all attempts to get him involved in sports.

"I couldn't even get him to run around the block much less run around a track," said his mother, Kristin Brown, a 1983 Oakland Mills graduate who ran for the Columbia Comets club track team and part of a season for Oakland Mills High.

Chris finally gave in to his father Kurt's persistence, however, and went out for track his sophomore year.

"I'm not really into sports and didn't like it at first," Barksdale said. "I just did it to shut my father up."

Now, after two seasons performing in the shadow of former teammate and perennial state champion sprinter Kyle Farmer, Barksdale has emerged as one of the hottest sprinters in the area. His coach, Sam Singleton, describes him as "scary fast."

Singleton also describes Barksdale's personality as "different."

"His first year, he didn't want to do any stretching. He'd just come out of the stands in street clothes and would say, `I'm ready, Coach.' "

Now he's a captain, whose responsibility it is to see that his teammates all stretch.

The All-Howard County and second-team All-Metro outdoor performer is unbeaten in the 300 meters this indoor season and is running 35s a full second faster than last season. And in his words: "I haven't run my fastest 300 yet. I don't like to run unless I'm challenged. I wish [Mario] Merrills of Wilde Lake was still around because he was a challenge."

Merrills, whom Barksdale defeated in the 100-meter county outdoor championship last spring, is a redshirt freshman football player at Maryland after completing a highly successful high school career in football and track.

Barksdale never defeated Farmer on the track, although he came within inches once. "I did beat him in a street race once, but never on the track," Barksdale said. Farmer, who missed last outdoor season with a hamstring tear, is now competing as a freshman for the University of Florida's track team.

As a youngster, Barksdale did enjoy what he calls "street racing" - random pick-up races - in his Owen Brown neighborhood. "I don't think I ever lost a street race."

In March at the Penn Relays, Barksdale was the only junior on a 400 relay team that finished second to a Trinidad-Tobago high school team and posted the fastest American time (41.42 seconds). Barksdale's leadoff split was 9.7. That was the race in which Farmer injured a hamstring while leading with 30 meters to go.

"I didn't know he had this talent," said his mother, who never misses a meet. "He's a humble child who was always introverted before track. But he's not letting any of the attention he's getting go to his head. He's embarrassed by it. He still just come homes, drops his sweats and uniform and goes back to his video games."

He received a plaque Wednesday from WBFF-TV in Baltimore as its Prep Athlete of the Week and was featured on the news that night.

She says that track has made him more outgoing.

"Being on the track team has done a lot for him. Now he talks and is a happier person. He's doing well in school and gets straight A's in French. I was the same way he was in school. Teachers would send notes home saying I would never talk."

She said she's not surprised about his track accomplishments. "We have a lot of speed in our family."

Barksdale has received a stack of letters from colleges about his track prowess, but is not leaning toward a particular school.

Oakland Mills has won three straight state indoor championships and two straight county indoor titles, and they are heavily favored to win both again this season.

The title Barksdale would really like to win is the county outdoor team championship, which the Scorpions have lost the last two seasons.

"I've dedicated myself to winning that title in my senior year," he said.

Until then, he'll keep racking up 300 victories and, maybe, a state 300 title.

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