Ahead of the 2021 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., we’ll highlight each of Clemson’s six entries by recapping their spectacular indoor seasons thus far!
Laurie Barton has put together another stellar season of consistent and high-achieving performances throughout 2021. The Clemson native helped to rewrite the program’s record book alongside her teammates while repeatedly establishing herself as one of the best middle-distance runners in the country.
Barton will toe the start line at the 2021 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships as the second seed in the women’s 800 meters and a favorite to stand atop the event’s podium following Saturday’s final. After last year’s indoor championships came to a halt before ever getting underway, Barton has put together a stellar season that has prepared her to seize the opportunity when it presents itself later this week.
Barton entered the indoor season following an impressive cross country campaign with the Tigers, as the senior finished as Clemson’s top competitor in two of the team’s three races. At the ACC Cross Country Championships, Barton finished 22nd overall, just narrowly missing All-ACC distinction.
The strength acquired during the cross country season translated well to the track as evident later on in the year, but Barton’s season began with a quick 600m at the Tigers’ Orange & Purple Elite on Jan. 9, as she ran 1:30.90.
Barton returned to her marquee event, the 800m, the following week during the Clemson Invitational, running 2:05.10 in her season debut at the distance. While the time was over a second off of her personal best, such a quick mark early on in the season showed that the senior would be ready to do much more in later meets. Barton’s time at the Clemson Invitational would have qualified her for the 2019 and 2020 NCAA indoor championships in the event.
As a transfer from Virginia Tech, it’s a special moment for Barton any time she returns to Blacksburg, Va., to compete. Barton proved to be the class of the field when she contested the women’s 1,000m at the Hokie Invitational, as she separated from the pack on the opening lap and never let her competitors back in the race. The clock stopped at 2:42.51 as Barton crossed the line, smashing Natoya Goule’s previous school record of 2:43.03 set back in 2015 on the same track.
The following few weeks saw Barton run odd events to work on her range, while also fine-tuning specific aspects of her tactical approach when it came to the half-mile. The work paid off at the Tiger Paw Invite, as Barton returned to her primary event and finished as the top collegiate athlete, running 2:03.91 to set a new Clemson best and record the second-fastest time of her career. The result was telling of the potential Barton held as she eyed the ACC championships.
The conference championships require some athletes to step into nontraditional roles within their team to help a program’s overall effort. Barton was one of those who stepped up to help those around her, as the mid-distance specialist ran the mile leg of the Tigers’ DMR, splitting 4:42.71 to help her team earn eight valuable points via a second-place finish. To make her split even more impressive, just a few hours before taking the baton, Barton ran 2:04.80 during her 800m preliminary heat to qualify for the event’s final as the top seed.
With a day to recover following her two-race effort, Barton returned to the track later in the meet with the half-mile final set to be one of the marquee events of the day.
In the final, Barton’s teammate, Andrea Foster, ran an aggressive race from the gun, leading the pack through the opening 400m with a ferocious split of 58.82. Barton worked her way through the race with the rest of the pack, slowly reeling in Foster before the bell lap. A hard-fought final 200m by Barton and Virginia Tech’s Lindsey Butler saw a finish for the ages as the two powered down the home-stretch and leaned at the line in unison. While Butler was awarded the victory by a mere three one-hundredths of a second, Barton was elated as the clock showed her having run 2:01.99. The time made her the second woman in program history to break 2:02 indoors, joining Goule who set the school record in the event by running 2:01.64 to win the 2015 NCAA indoor national championship in the event.
Barton’s 2021 campaign has prepared her for this weekend’s competition, and by relying on her strength and poise, the senior will be ready to compete alongside the nation’s best in the 800m in hopes of capturing a national championship.