Piedmont breaks Class 5A record in revenge race
Photo by KT King, For the Oklahoman
Jadon Barker crossed the finish line and let out a roar.
The Piedmont senior finished just behind teammate Blake Cope and nearly in stride with another in Paul Welch.
As the three hugged at the finish line of the Class 5A boys cross country meet, they looked back to see the wave of familiar yellow jerseys coming down the home stretch.
This race was theirs.
“It was just immense relief,” Barker said. “You know it’s over and looking back I knew we just absolutely dominated.
“There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that we didn’t win.”
Not only did the Piedmont boys win the championship, they smashed the Class 5A state record in in the process.
Piedmont finished with five runners in the top 11 with Cope finishing third overall, Barker fifth, Welch sixth, Beckam Hartis ninth and Jacob Brightwell 14th for a grand total of 28 points, besting second place Guymon by 41 points.
Cope, who finished with a time of 16:42.6, said his team was motivated by a loss to Guymon the year before in which they lost by five points.
This season, the Wildcats were on a mission to win their first state title.
“There wasn’t a day since last year that we haven’t been thinking about it,” Cope said. “It was in our mind all summer training and every race, and today we came out and avenged that.”
In the celebration after the race, Barker had to separate himself from his teammates, heading back to a section of the cross country course and hitting his knees in a prayer-like pose.
Barker, who has a condition where he was born without radius bones in either arm, was overcome with emotion when trying to talk about his journey in the sport.
As a freshman and sophomore, Barker was a junior varsity runner.
But once he set his mind on cross country, the improvement came fast and furious, says Barker’s mom Angie Van Black.
“He’s so driven, and I knew he would overcome any obstacle,” Van Black said. “He is so strong, and his spirit is strong and his dedication is strong. I’ve always raised him to go for what he wants and he did.”
Piedmont ran in a tight pack for a majority of the race on Saturday, a strategy that Welch said really helped keep everyone on track.
“During the race if you don’t have a team like this you can be running alone,” Welch said. “With your teammates it’s really motivates you and it helps keep your spirits up for sure.”
Barker patted the back of Welch as they walked toward the podium to accept the Class 5A boys championship trophy.
“It’s these guys right here,” Barker said of his teammates. “All the work we’ve put in over the summer, it was all for this day. “It was all for this moment.”