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Barnes leaves lasting legacy on NMU track

July 27, 2012
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - Northern Michigan University track and field coach Tom Barnes has coached four All-American athletes as well as two other NCAA Division II Championships qualifiers as an assistant and a head coach since 2003.

Now he wants to dedicate time to his three grandchildren, and a fourth one that is on the way.

"It's my time to step away and spend time with my family," Barnes said in a press release Thursday. "... I'm excited to spend more time with (my grandchildren).

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"Track and field is my passion. I really enjoyed coaching at Northern and all the opportunities it gave me to work with good people and great young athletes."

Barnes, 60, made his retirement official on Thursday after informing NMU athletic director Forrest Karr of his intentions in early July and emailing his team late Wednesday night.

Barnes joined the Wildcats track and field team as an assistant during the program's first year in 2003 and was promoted to head coach in 2007.

NMU finished 14th at the NCAA indoor championships in 2012 and 20th at the outdoor championships. In GLIAC meets, NMU was third at the indoor meet and fourth at the outdoor meet. All four NCAA and GLIAC finishes are the highest ever for NMU.

"My best memories are the student-athletes," said Barnes, who coached and founded the track program at Father Marquette Middle School prior to coming to NMU. "They're all special and they achieved a lot. They built their character and achieved success that will carry on with the rest of their lives.

"I'm leaving the track team in a good position and in good hands and it will continue to improve and grow. I thank (former athletic director) Ken Godfrey, (current associate AD, former interim AD) Steve Reed and all the administration and staff for their support over the years."

In 2011 and 2012, triple jumper and high jumper Bailey Franklin was named an indoor and outdoor All-American three times under Barnes, as was pole vaulter Jamie Roberts of Iron Mountain. Franklin was also named the 2009 GLIAC outdoor championship freshman of the meet and the 2010 outdoor athlete of the year.

Sherice Hewett, the GLIAC's indoor and outdoor championship freshman of the meet in 2012, earned All-American status in the triple jump during both indoor and outdoor seasons in 2011-12 while Barnes' first All-American came in 2005 from Jennie Lahr in the 1,600-meter run.

Krista Squires in the hammer throw and Leslie Luehmann in the heptathlon both reached the NCAA Championships under Barnes, who can also claim to have coached every current NMU track and field record holder.

"Tom did a great job building Wildcat track and field into a nationally competitive program," Karr said. "He let me know immediately when I arrived that he was planning to retire, which has been helpful in organizing the search process and will ensure a smooth transition for the student-athletes.

"Tom coached for all the right reasons and he is committed to helping us find a quality coach that will continue the program's success."

NMU has already begun a national search for a new head coach, according to Karr.Barnes told ESPN 970 AM on Thursday that recruiting is already complete for the 2012-13 season and that assistants Jenny Ryan and Kevin Kean will remain on the Wildcats' staff. Ryan is also the women's cross country coach.

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.



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