Let’s go back to Feb. 7, 2015; students are a few weeks into the new semester and while some students are studying, hanging with friends or doing whatever else students do, there are a few students on the Akron track and field team who are breaking records at the 11th annual Akron Invitational.
Shawn Barber, a junior who competes in pole vault, explained the feeling he gets when playing the sport.
“[It’s] A kind of feeling [that] every hair on your body is standing up at once when every part of your body is completely aware that you are flying through the air. I think that is why I do it most of all. No matter what you do, you can’t get that feeling anywhere else,” Barber said.
This feeling must run in the family, as Barber’s dad, George, was once a jumper for the Canadian National Team as well as collegiately at UTEP. George is now a fan and an inspiration of his son who he taught at a young age about the love of the sport.
This love for pole vaulting has been apparent throughout Shawn’s career at Akron. He is now a holder of three records (Collegiate, Canadian, and high school) and has been honored several times with all American status and holds seven championships in this event. “I spend many hours each week practicing leading up to every meet so it is like a part-time job,” Barber said. “I have to remind myself sometimes to have fun, that I’m a pole vaulter because it is fun and that I enjoy doing it. It seems like if I don’t remind myself of that I can lose focus on why I do it, so it is all about having fun for me.”
The record he broke was set in 1999 by Texas jumper Jacob Davis when Davis jumped 19-2.25. Breaking the record at 19-3.5 (5.88m) was due entirely to hard work and determination from Barber who pushed the limits of his body through the offseason. “It was a goal that I was looking at and it was an ecstatic feeling to know you’ve broken a number of records with one jump. The whole season was leading up to breaking these records so far,” Barber said while looking back at his record breaking moment.
“He has and we have, of course, big expectations. It is a big dream to go after a world record or an Olympic gold medal. Right now, [I’m] focusing on just getting a little better each time he goes out. Hopefully this will lead to those big dreams. Shawn is a great student of the event. He is very talented. He has the mental toughness. All of these qualities I am sure will lead him to even more extraordinary heights,” Head Coach Dennis Mitchell said. “It is important to defend and win a MAC individual and team championship [and for this team] inspiration comes from reminding them of their dreams and goals and how they have it in them to reach them. The Akron men’s team is the only team in the top 25 that is not from the so called power five conferences. They are inspired as well to do it for the Blue and Gold…Akron.”
For the rest of the season, Shawn will look towards the NCAA Championships, the MAC conference Championships and to finish up the year on the podium in China for the World Championships, this summer. Barber will also look forward to continue his run and receive the highest honor for a track athlete, which is called the Bowerman Award.
The University of Akron men’s and women’s track and field team returns to action this weekend on Friday, Feb. 20, as MAC Track and Field Athletes of the Week Barber, Claudia Garcia Jou, and Clayton Murphy compete in the all-day Zips Invitational. Come see your Zips shine bright in their events and attempt to break and tie records on their way to another MAC championship.