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Assistant coach keeps the fun in running

George Jones

Issue date: 9/4/09 Section: Cross Country
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 Cross country runners have a number of odd traditions that help them stay loose and enjoy the sport.
Media Credit: Case Sports Information
Cross country runners have a number of odd traditions that help them stay loose and enjoy the sport.
[Click to enlarge]

[Click to enlarge]
Men's and women's assistant cross country coach Tim Barnes is in his eighth year with cross country, and his tenth year overall at Case. In that time, he has earned a reputation for helping keep the teams unstressed at races.

"That was me and Kathy's goal was when we took over the program eight, nine years ago," Barnes said. "When I first came here, the kids wouldn't put their books down. They just wouldn't have fun. You need to enjoy life. Running is an outlet from the classrooms."

"I feel like, the day of the race, we don't do anything serious," said senior co-captain Elaine Simpson. "Coach says, the day of the race, if you're not prepared, there's nothing else you can do."

"The girls and boys have always had a tradition of wearing silly stuff to a meet and warming up in. I usually am buying the stuff," said Barnes. "I have a tradition of, at conference meet, buying them big goofy glasses and weird hats, and they'll warm up in the hats."

"My freshman year, it was clowns," said Simpson. "We would get clown noses, big clown glasses, and big clown shoes."

"Last year, we got sunglasses in Atlanta, because it was hot down there," said Simpson. "We also got these big pink hats with polka dots on them."

The fun extends to practices as well. "Yesterday, the kids were stretching and I came up with a bunch of bananas and apples and was asking them trivia questions," said Barnes. "If they got it right, I would throw them an apple, or a banana, or an orange. They were hungry, so they wanted them anyway, but I made it a game."

"He has the 'Banana Club,'" said senior co-captain Kurt Gilbt. "For certain things, he will give you a 'Banana Club' running shirt."

"When we travel places, we always pick him up off the highway, because he lives far away," said senior co-captain Jenna Yaney. "We don't even stop, the door just opens and he hops on."

"If we're going on a long trip, we'll have silly games we do, we'll give out silly prizes just to keep them relaxed," said Barnes. "Have them get off the stress of Case, get away from the books, enjoy life, watch movies."

"Coach Barnes brings all these weird movies when we go on trips, like 'Short Circuit' and 'The Warriors'," said Yaney. "I feel like he owns every movie no one's ever heard of."

"He owns a lot of '80s movies," Gilbert added.

"He started a game called 'Guess the Bill'," said Simpson. "Every time we go out to eat, we guess the bill, and whoever wins gets a Banana Club T-shirt."

"He sometimes signs the shirt," said Gilbert.

He has taught various high school subjects, including art, physical education, health, and wood shop, for over 20 years. He brings some of that expertise to the cross country team as well. "He gave us a big speech on the Swine Flu. He told us to not hold on to any railings or walk around campus," said Gilbert.

He also has different strategies to inspire the team before races. "Coach Barnes has pulled out his leg hair before to inspire the guys before a race, to show that 'pain means nothing,'" said Gilbert.

"He gave us a whole speech about how, if we get mildly hurt, to imagine someone in a wheelchair and how much they would want to run," said Yaney.

"I'm really glad Coach Barnes is around. I feel like it wouldn't be as fun," said Simpson. "He was the person who made us get less stressed and more relaxed about running."

Barnes himself is optimistic about the teams this season. "The girls, it's going to be a very interesting transition year. I think we're going to do very well coming off of last year. We had two All-Americans last year, and one of them is back. They have the same potential to go to nationals as last year, because they've been there, and they like it."

"My little thing about qualifying for nationals, it's a saying I inherited from other colleges: the goal is, in November, to get on the airplane," said Barnes. "This year, it's being held in Cleveland, so my term this year, is to get on a bike and pedal to nationals."

"I think the men's team is going to surprise a lot of people," said Barnes. "We have a lot of good back-classmen who are running very well right now. Our theme is 'pack it up and run together.' If we do that, we will surprise a lot of people in the conference and in the nation."
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Spartan Spotlight

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