Barnes leaves record-breaking legacy


Will Barnes, Monday, April 12, 2016.

Samantha Lough

Nerves shaking, heart racing, senior William Barnes stepped into lane five at the 2012 Ohio High School Track and Field Championships for the 110-meter hurdles. It was at this meet that Barnes met Bill Lawson, head coach and director of track and field at Kent State. After the meet, Lawson approached Barnes and his coach, Kevin Tooson, to talk about what the university could do for Barnes.

Barnes had verbally committed to the University of Cincinnati, but NCAA recruiting rules state a coach to recruit an athlete until they have signed a national letter of intent. Barnes signed with Kent State in August 2012.

“Cincinnati only offered me a book scholarship and Kent (State) was offering me more, so I chose Kent (State),” said Barnes.

Lawson admitted to being late for Barnes’ recruiting process but said after watching him run, he just had to sign him.

“(Barnes) is tall and lean and the exact prototype of a hurdler,” Lawson said. “But (Barnes is) not just a hurdler; he’s part of the 4×1 relay team, a 200-meter sprinter. He’d give up any individual title to help his team win a conference championship.”

Barnes is a three-time MAC champion in the 110-meter hurdles. This past indoor season, he broke the University of Akron Stile Athletics Field House and Mid-American Conference record, as well as Kent State’s alumni Ron Andrews’ record in the indoor 60-meter hurdles with a time of 7.69 seconds. Barnes is also ninth in the Kent State record book for the outdoor 200-meter dash and holds the third-fastest indoor record.

After Lawson and then-assistant coach Steve Rajewsky recruited Barnes, Rajewsky left for a job coaching in the Olympics he is now coaching the track team at the University of Michigan. Michael Schober—a former student athlete of the university—joined Kent State’s coaching staff in October 2013.

“(Barnes) just matured to the point where he’s self-motivated and pushes himself,” Schober said. “As an athlete, he’s dropped his 200-meter and hurdle times. He’s really become an all-around student athlete and the face you’d want for your organization.”  

Through all his accomplishments, Barnes has remained modest. His roommate and teammate Roosevelt Dotson, a senior educational studies major, said Barnes is a great friend.

“He’s humble, and he’s always striving to be better and to help others get better,” Dotson said. “He tries to stay positive, he’s always worried about others and he’s selfless.”  

In high school, Barnes was part of the 4×100-meter relay team that took second place at the state meet in 2009. His relay team at Kent State holds the fourth-fastest 4×100 time in school history and currently he has the eighth-fastest hurdle time in the country.  

Barnes’ next target is the Olympics.

“I have dual citizenship in the U.S. and Puerto Rico because my mother’s parents are Puerto Rican,” he said.

After his mother died of cancer in 2004, Barnes lived with his grandparents during high school. He said he would like to run for the Puerto Rican team in memory of his mother and is confident he’d make the team.

“I want (to) hit the Olympic standard; hit every record in (all of my) events, go pro and go to the Olympics,” Barnes said.

Samantha Lough is a sports reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].