Retaining his national championship will be anything but easy for David Barnett.
The defensive lineman-turned offensive lineman only recently has been able to fully focus his attention on javelin, the event he won as a Carroll College sophomore when he hurled the spear 204 feet, 6 1/4 inches on his final throw at nationals last season.
Barnett’s focus this winter and springtime has been increasing his weight, pushing toward 275 pounds to fulfill his new position on the gridiron at offensive tackle. His weight increased so much, his large-framed track coach Harry Clark cracked that Barnett came out of winter “just fat. He looked worse than I did.”
When the comment was relayed to Barnett later, before the punchline could even be finished Barnett sensed Clark’s quip. “I knew it was coming,” he said. “That’s one of the things they were worried about. They were like, ‘Uhh, we still want you to move.’ I think I am fine as far as moving well.”
Even with the added weight, it’s been difficult for Barnett to make his mark this season. He’s a thrower capable of going over 200 feet, but due to the nature of Helena Middle School’s abbreviated thrower’s field, where the final painted marker is 190 feet, Barnett can’t fully unleash in practice or home meets.
“We haven’t unleashed him out of the bag yet,” Clark said. “We throw down here (at Vigilante Stadium). He’d throw it in the parking lot over there. He can only do so much. We only have him on a five-step. He throws like 190 coming out. If he threw as hard as he could, he’d be in the road.”
Barnett’s schedule worked nicely in conjunction before spring football ended. Practices didn’t conflict, and the few Saturdays the Saints had football scrimmages, meets either didn’t conflict or coincided just right so Barnett could participate in both.
Barnett has qualified for nationals already this season, throwing his top mark of 189 feet on April 1 at the Carroll Open, the first event of the season for the Saints. As of Wednesday, that mark put Barnett at No. 6 in the nation, nearly 20 feet behind Pancho Saldana, the Eastern Oregon standout Barnett upended last year at nationals.
Beyond the length of the practice field, Barnett also dislikes the grass runway. The Hermiston, Oregon, product is used to throwing on tarmac surfaces. Grass has been an adjustment.
“I really dislike throwing on grass,” he said. “You come here and state here is on grass. It’s a whole different world for me. For a competition it’s a little different.”
Barnett has three meets to improve that mark before nationals. Perhaps the biggest motivator will be this weekend’s Montana Open in Missoula, which pits the Saints against NCAA Division-I competition. Barnett peaked right before nationals last season, throwing a 207-foot mark in the final meet of the regular season. It stands to reason he’s on a similar path this season.