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Coaching in blood for Jackets' Barnett

May 9, 2012

Starkville boys track coach Chris Barnett, middle row second from right, and the Yellowjackets and Lady Jackets are preparing for the weekend's Class 5A State Championship meet. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

For Chris Barnett, you could say that coaching in his blood.

The Starkville High School boys track and field coach led his team to a Class 5A North State Championship this past weekend.

It was a familiar person to Barnett who led his boys and girls team to a title.

Pearl High School, coached by Chris's father Woody, won the south in both boys and girls.

Woody never imagined his son as a track and field head coach.

"He didn't hate track (but) that just wasn't his thing," Woody said.
Woody has been coaching track and cross country for 35 years at Pearl High School. During his tenure, he has won 42 state championships between the two sports.

"Our whole life is basically spent up at the track," Chris said. "Working at the meets growing up, running the events and just being there to raking and measuring. It has been part of my life throughout the years and it is been something special that I can share with these kids up here.

"He definitely had high expectations of us with anything in life. He wanted his son to be the best. I always accepted any challenge."

Pearl had just won the South State when Woody got the news that his son might also be in the same boat as him.

"I was in the best mood of my life," Woody said. "Our boys and girls both had won South State so we were all excited. I get a call from Chris and he says 'we are half a point up going into the mile relay.' They have the best mile relay team in the state so I was hoping they could win it. When he called me back, that just really made my day."

You might say that the Barnett's own Class 5A track and field.

"I think it's a very exciting day this past weekend," Chris said. "To be able to come in as his son and be able to win the north half and he win the south half, it's a father-son type deal that took over 5A this past weekend."

Chris is in his second year as the coach of the Yellowjackets. The three previous years were spent at Northwest Rankin as an assistant coach.

"I think he got to see about how track is a little different than other sports just because the nature of track and field," Woody said. "I think that is what eventually won him over. He didn't get in it to coach track. He wanted to coach football and maybe help with some track."

Chris' North title may be a little more than a championship. Chris knows his father is proud of him, but for him to prove himself at an elite level, shows his father his hard work paid off.

"I think for him as much success as he has had and as happy he is me being his son, he was very much overwhelmed with joy," Chris said. "For him to see all the hard work he had put in through the years, he was happy."

For Woody, it may be more than a victory for both him and his son.
Pride is the one word that came to mind while talking to him.

"In him, I see a lot of me," Woody said. "He is passionate. We can get into some good arguments ourself, but he is very passionate about what he does. He cares about the kids. He will do a good job. No matter what sport he coached, he was going to do a good job."

The Class 5A State championship will be this weekend beginning Friday at Pearl High School.

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