HELENA – Last spring, David Barnet was on top of the podium at the NAIA national outdoor track and field tournament. Days before the 2017 version of the competition, the Carroll College senior has no problem being ranked No. 2.
“The guy with the No. 1 throw (Pancho Saldana) goes to Eastern Oregon where I’m from,” said Barnett, who captured the 2016 national javelin title with a throw of 204 feet, 6.25 inches on his final attempt. “I actually threw against him in high school, so I kind of have a personal relationship with him. He’s a super-nice guy and he got second last year when I won it, now he’s leading. It will be cool to come into the last meet and you have to get out there and do it. What it comes down to, is that day.”
The national meet is set up like a scene from a movie. The defending champion against the current No. 1, who has won the battle between the two before.
“I think he might have won that one,” Barnett laughed, thinking back to the high school meet in Pendleton, Ore. “I think he was in a lower class level than I was. I was 5A and I think he was a 2A school or something like that. We got to throw against one another and I think he might have got me there. Now, it’s a whole new story. That was six years ago, so we’ll see.”
Barnett has been prepared to defend his title since the track and field season began in April, but he doubles as an offensive lineman on the Saints’ football team, packing his spring with the two sports, as well as school.
With spring drills behind him and the spring semester finished, his attention has turned strictly to javelin. Barnett has tossed the spear hundreds of times throughout his career, breaking his high school record in Oregon, setting new personal records with the Fighting Saints and capturing that national title a year ago. Now, with his career set to conclude, only three more throws are guaranteed.
“My parents are actually traveling all the way to Alabama for this and their remark was, ‘Well, we’re going to go watch David throw six times and then drive back.’ It’s crazy to think how hard we train for those six throws, or those 14 seconds, that one race or one event that you do. It all comes down to that. It’s pretty exciting to think that this is what my specialty is and this is what I’ve come to do and go out and do it,” he said.
Last year it took a toss of 204-plus feet to get the job done. Defending his title this season may take a little extra boost.
“It’s hard to put a number on it. If I threw over 210 feet I would be pretty excited. That would be a big throw,” Barnett said. “I’ve been throwing really consistent at over 200 in practice, which is by far the farthest I have thrown in practice. There’s that hope that once I get down there I get jacked up and one will pop. Obviously, the goal is to win and it’s going to be a fun competition … I think there are 12 guys throwing over 190 feet. Within 17 feet will be 12 of us. We’re all within inches and feet of one another. It’s just like last year, I won by a foot. Second and third place was two centimeters apart I think. You’re throwing 200 feet but it comes down to an inch or two. That’s crazy.”
Barnett has seen crazy before. Maybe another round of craziness is exactly what he needs.