By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
RICHMOND, Ky. — College is said to be a time for trying new things.
Eastern Kentucky University’s Ashley Barr is living proof of the good that can come from it.
Barr, a Troy High School graduate and junior on the Colonels’ track and field team, had been a sprinter her entire career. But last year, she began running the 800 middle-distance race and found success at it right away — and she capped off her latest indoor track season with a second-place finish at the Ohio Valley Conference Indoor Championships.
Throughout her high school career with the Trojans, Barr was primarily a sprinter, specializing in the 400 and also running the 100, 200 and various relays. But her sophomore year at EKU, her coach decided to have her try her hand at the 800.
“This was only the second year I’ve run the 800,” Barr said. “I maybe ran one 4×800 relay in high school, but I hadn’t really run the 800 before. I always ran the 400.
“I was like, ‘well, I don’t know’ (when asked to run the 800). But I trusted my coach because I trust his training. I was a little apprehensive — I mean, it’s so much longer, an entire second lap of the 400 — but it’s turned out pretty well.”
Barr ran the 800 for the first time a mere three weeks before the 2019 OVC Indoor Championships, and she immediately took to it, claiming a third-place finish at that indoor conference meet. She ran a personal-best 2:13 during her sophomore season of outdoor track, and eventually she took fourth in the race at the OVC Outdoor Championships that year, running a 2:15.1.
“We don’t really have that many indoor meets to begin with, so I’d only ran it two or three times before last year’s OVC Indoor,” Barr said. “I’d ran the 400 for so long, and it was fun to try something different. And once you get some success at something new like that, you begin to think ‘maybe I can do this.’”
And she continued to prove that during indoor season this year as she was one of three Colonel women to medal, and one of two to earn silver, at the 2020 OVC Indoor Championships in late February at the Birmingham CrossPlex in Alabama.
Barr ran 2:16.45 in the qualifying round, taking the fifth-best time into the finals. She climbed the ladder in the championship race, though, turning in a 2:15.19 and finishing second.
She said that her solid first year of running the 800 as a sophomore helped her this season.
“It definitely helped,” Barr said. “I started last year training for the 400 and then tried to convert later to the 800. That third-place finish at the OVC indoor helped a lot with my confidence, and then this year I could train for the 800 from the start and focus on it.
“Starting it out last year, I never would have though I could get second in it. But after getting third as a sophomore, I just wanted to see how far I could go in it.”
Unfortunately, she will have to wait until next year to continue her progress.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of her junior year of outdoor track season, but she still has her senior year to go.
“I should be running outdoor right now. It was just a shock,” Barr said. “You’d never expect a pandemic to cancel your whole outdoor season. I was really excited for it after getting second in indoor, and I really wanted to see what I could do during outdoor.
“We’re just all trying to stay in shape and stay positive. It’s not in our control. But it helps knowing that I still have another chance.”
Contact Josh Brown at [email protected].
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