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Editor’s note: Each week, The Wake Weekly will honor a local high school senior athlete who put in years of work in a sport, but who won’t finish their final season after COVID-19 ended spring athletics.
RALEIGH — This week’s student-athlete of the week is Wakefield track athlete Peyton Barnes.
The runner was born and raised in Raleigh. He has one older brother and two younger brothers.
Barnes found his love for sports through his uncle, Jonathan Jupiter. He looked up to him as a role model in both life and in athletics. Barnes said he remembered the first time Jupiter took him running.
“When I was 4 years old, my uncle took me on this long four-mile run,” Barnes said. “My family told me I should do track in middle school. I fell in love with it. It has come natural to me. I realized that if I keep working at it, I could be successful in it.”
Since that run with his uncle, Barnes has been involved in racing competitions throughout most of his life. What helped him stick with it was the motivation from his uncle, a former athlete himself.
“Growing up, Uncle John was well known for football, baseball and track in Raleigh,” Barnes said. “He wanted to expose his family members to athletics. We’re really close. I look at him like my older brother and father figure. He kept up with me with workouts and has helped me get better at sports.”
At Wakefield High School, Barnes has proven to be one of the top runners on the track program. Last year, he ran a personal record of 1:58.87 in the 800-meter run to place him eighth overall at the 4A state championship.
He also runs in the 4x800-meter relay, the 400-meter dash and the 500-meter dash for indoor track, where his personal best is 1:09.05 and a 2:43.90 for the indoor 1,000-meter run.
Barnes runs year-round, as he also participates for the school’s cross country team. His best time for cross country is 19:12.20, which he ran Oct. 8, 2019.
“My favorite is the 800-meter and 400-meter,” Barnes said. “Last year, I went from being unranked to being a state qualifier.”
Barnes added that the reason why he runs is to fuel his competitive spirit with those he races against. He mostly performs to see if he can best his rivals.
“The competition with others drives me the most,” Barnes said. “I’m always competing against myself to prove myself. I get an adrenaline rush when I race against other people.”
Barnes was preparing himself for another shot at the 4A state title for the 800-meter run this year. However, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association made the decision to cancel the spring sports season due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I knew it was coming, but I didn’t know how to prepare for it,” Barnes said. “Our coaches told us at practice. It was really devastating. I felt like I could have gone for states and win it all. I was so focused on running at the states, because I thought this year was going to be my year.”
Despite being disappointed not to run for Wakefield ever again, Barnes is still determined to be the best athlete he can be. He still runs every day to stay in shape for when he races for the next level.
“I told my coaches that I will stay focused on my training and workouts,” Barnes said. “I wake up every morning and run a couple of miles. I run around my neighborhood. I try to stay in as much shape as possible. I want to stay ready.”
Barnes said he is still undecided on where he wants to go to college next year. He’s also undecided what he wants to study in college. He said he likes history and his cousin talked to him about pursuing engineering.
However, the biggest factor on where he ends up going is the chance to run track for the school.
“I want to go where my best opportunity is and the coach I like the most,” Barnes said. “Track is the reason why I’m getting into college, so I want a good coach to work with. The biggest influence is which coaches I get along with the most.”
For Barnes, the next step in his journey is almost here. Before he graduates from Wakefield, he has one last message for his fellow Wolverines.
“My coaches tell me to get out what I put in,” Barnes said. “I want to tell everyone to not take things for granted. Everything can be taken from you tomorrow. Cherish all the little things. Make every time a great time.”