As the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships draw near, we’ll take a look at the path that each of Clemson’s six individual qualifiers took to get to the meet in Albuquerque, N.M.
Laurie Barton has had a spectacular indoor campaign during the 2019-20 season, as the junior from Clemson, S.C. has shown her versatility and elite talent in a variety of events. Barton, who transferred home to Clemson after two years competing for Virginia Tech, returned to the track after overcoming a series of setbacks that withheld her from competition for nearly 18 months. Under the direction of Mark Elliott, who serves as Clemson’s Director of Track & Field, Barton returned to the track with a vengeance and made her presence known across the country.
Barton’s career at Clemson began on Dec. 7, 2019, as she earned personal-best marks in the 300 and 600 meters at the Clemson Opener, running 41.44 and 1:33.60, respectively. Barton would train through the winter break and return to the track running the 1000 meters at the Orange & Purple Elite, finishing third overall. Barton, who specializes in the 800 meters, made her Clemson debut in the event at the Clemson Invitational, running 2:05.84 and logging the third-best mark in the world at the time.
Barton would begin the final string of regular-season meets by running a personal best of 56.29 in the 400 meters at the South Carolina Invitational and would contribute a perfectly executed 1200m leg on the team’s DMR at the same meet. The regular season would end for Barton at the Tiger Paw Invitational, where the junior competed in the women’s 800 meters and ran a leg on the team’s 4×400 meter relay.
The ACC Championships saw Barton shine, as the Clemson native started her weekend with a beautiful effort on the track to open the Tigers’ effort in the DMR. Barton used patience to let her competitors set the pace early on and then relied on her lethal combination of strength and speed to swing wide on her competitors and hand off the baton in first place.
The women’s 800 meters was Barton’s shining moment throughout the weekend, as she won her preliminary heat with a time of 2:07.57 and would then go into the final looking for a time to punch her ticket to the National Championships, as Barton was ranked 18th in the country at the time of the finals. Barton collaborated with teammate Andrea Foster to push the pace early and leave the competition in their wake, as the two sped away from the other six competitors and crossed the line in first and second.
Barton won the race in a time of 2:04.04, and with Foster crossing the line less than a second behind her, the two solidified their ranking within the top 16 for the event at the national level. The conference title was the first individual crown of her career and made her the No. 4 performer in Clemson history for the women’s 800 meters.
When Barton takes to the track for the preliminary heat of the event in Albuquerque, it won’t be the first time competing at an Indoor National Championships. While at Virginia Tech, Barton was a member of the women’s DMR squad that would finish third at the 2018 edition of the Championships, registering a 2:04 split for her side and handing off the baton in third place overall.
Now, competing as a Tiger and with Foster by her side, Barton is ready to contend with the nation’s best and stake her claim at a national title.