Toast of the Coast: Waccamaw’s Barnett puts team first

01/23/2013 5:31 PM

01/23/2013 5:43 PM

Grace Barnett is proud of her individual accomplishments.

However, she always frames her accolades within a team concept.

So if you ask her, there’s still plenty of work to do.

The Waccamaw senior finished second in Class AA state cross country meet for the second year in a row and helped the Warriors to back-to-back runner-up finishes en route to being named Toast of the Coast Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

Waccamaw lost out to Landrum in a tiebreaker, coming dangerously close to a state championship. It was the third time in about a year that Barnett had to settle for a team runner-up finish as she starred on the Warriors’ track and field team that also placed second.

“It was an exciting day, but it was tough to think that if I would’ve won [individually], I would’ve won for the team,” a humble Barnett said, referring to the 2012 cross country finish. “For me, that was a tough burden. I guess every member of the team felt that way, though.”

However, she expressed the pride of the team’s success and had excitement in her voice when talking about the track and field team’s chances this spring.

“I so am [looking forward to it],” Barnett said. “I really think we can do it because we have everyone coming back. Last year, we came really close. It depends on which team wants it more.”

Barnett’s selflessness has been a key to the team’s success, first-year Warriors cross country coach Brian White said.

“It’s just great. It keeps everybody sort of focused. They realize, ‘hey, we’re not in it for ourselves; we’re going to work as a team,’ ” he said. “We knew it was going to be a concerted effort for us to [do well at] the state championship. Grace was a big part of that and she is going to be truly missed.”

Barnett has received plenty of interest from colleges and likely will wait to make a decision on where she’ll end up as the track season looms around the corner. Barnett said she plans to make an academic decision, but running will play a big role in where she ends up.

Barnett hasn’t pinpointed whether it will be in cross country or track, a sport in which she originally shied away from in favor of soccer before becoming a standout later in her high school career.

“It’s really crazy to think back to starting in seventh grade. I remember the goals I made. I remember my first race and everything,” Barnett said. “It’s hard to explain what running has meant to me. It’s become the most important thing in my life.”

Said White: “I think she could run track or cross country [in college]. She has the ability to do both. Whoever gets her, they’re getting a jewel.”

And a great teammate.

“My team is really my life and I love every one of those girls out there,” Barnett said.

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