Barger narrowly misses state record in 3,200 meters

In the words of that famed government agent Maxwell Smart: Cody Barger missed it by that much.

The North Hall senior, who won the Class AAA 1,600-meter championship Thursday, missed breaking the 35-year-old state record in the AAA 3,200 meters by just 0.12 of a second, after he blazed to a winning time of 9:07.12.

But Barger acknowledged that he had only himself to blame for missing the record. After opening a substantial lead with about 200 meters to go, he had a lapse in focus when a bystander yelled to him, “Way to finish your career.”

“When I heard that, for some reason I just shut down,” Barger said. “I don’t know why. I guess I just lost focus or something. I can’t blame anyone by myself.”

Taking home both individual distance titles is sweet redemption for Barger, who suffered through various injuries last season, including a stress fracture in his foot, and didn’t qualify for the state meet. And the future looks pretty bright for Barger, who has accepted a commission to West Point, where he will run next year. He reports to campus in late June.

Still, being a Georgia track-and-field record holder would have been nice.

“I’m pretty mad at myself,” Barger said.

Meanwhile, the emotion on display during the Class A 3,200-meter final was the opposite of anger. It was all love between the Jenkins brothers of Athens Christian. Joshua, a senior, won the race in a time of 9:43.07. His younger brother, Josiah, a sophomore, finished a close second at 9:43.17.

Both stayed close to First Presbyterian Day’s Gray Lindley, who set a torrid pace over the first five laps of the race. But the Brothers Jenkins took command with two laps to go. In the final 100 meters of the race Joshua held a slight lead, but was held up behind two slower runners who were a full lap off the pace. Instead of racing ahead, Josiah stayed behind Joshua all the way to the finish.

“He’s a good brother,” said Joshua, last year’s Class A runner-up in the event.

Knowing that he has two more seasons in which he will be the dominant distance specialist in Class A and one of the best in Georgia, Josiah was more than happy with his second-place finish.

Joshua, who finished fifth in the 1,600 meters yesterday and will run at Kennesaw State in the fall, said he will miss his training partner, friend and competitor. “I just tell him to keep God first and everything else will take care of itself.”

In AA, North Oconee senior Tripp Hurt claimed both distance titles. He won the 1,600 meters Thursday and claimed the 3,200-meter championship Friday in a time of 9:47.92. He won the 1,600 meters last year, but placed fifth in the 3,200.

“So this feels pretty good,” said Hurt, who will run for Furman in the fall.

Chattahoochee’s Austin Ulich overtook James Dwyer of Dunwoody with about 60 meters left in the AAAA 3,200 to win in a time of 9:21.21, just ahead of Dwyer’s 9:22.00. In AAAAA, Peachtree Ridge’s Josh Brickell won the title in a time of 9:16.88.