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Interval Session #41 - Michael Barbas
March 27, 2008

There were plenty of track and field headlines for shot putters this winter – at least if your name was Nick Vena. Well, when a bunch of 60-footers gathered at Nike Indoor Nationals a few weeks ago, Vena wasn’t there. He had gone to NSIC, leaving a major headline available for whoever could emerge from this very solid group of mostly 61- to 65-foot throwers.

Some picked Brandon Pounds IN, some picked Mike Alleman NJ. But not many outside of Texas probably had their money on Michael Barbas. The Houston Village TX sr had not yet joined the 60-foot club when 2008 dawned, though he obviously had creds as a rising young putter from being tabbed to represent Team USA at the World Youth Champs last summer (he didn’t make the final). Then Michael hit 62-04.25 in January and hasn’t looked back.

Still, his best was 63-08 coming into NIN. On his 4th throw he unloaded a 64-06.75, then on his 5th he put the ball all the way out to 66-03, a mark surpassed only by Vena nationally this indoor season. Now Michael can look at things like outdoor national titles, being well on his way toward 70 feet, and his collegiate career as a Duke Blue Devil.

DyeStat news editor SteveU catches up with the NIN champ and 66-footer as he prepares for the early end of the season push in the Lone Star State.
Preparing for a big throw at NIN. Photo Vic Sailer, photorun.net

1. You had a great winning performance at Nike Indoor, with a huge PR. Have you had a lot of reaction from friends, family, schoolmates and fellow competitors since then? How has it felt being a national champion?

Yes, a lot of friends and family have been extremely supportive. I really enjoy sharing the success and the moment with my loved ones. It has been a great feeling knowing that I have won a national title.

2. Now that you’ve had more than a week to think about it, and perhaps look at video or photos, can you isolate what you were able to do on that 66-foot throw that enabled you to hammer your PR by such a big margin?

I did not do anything particularly special, I was just so pumped up and focused. I felt that I had a very big throw in me, and I only needed the adrenaline and competition to push me.

3. When you have a PR like this that has dramatically surpassed your previous PR, how does that change your approach to training and competing? Is it easy to get obsessed with duplicating what you did on that one huge throw, or are you able to just continue with the same approach to technique and other factors that you’d been using?

With a large PR, I must stay focused on technique, because my technique still needs a lot of work. Focused practices and good competition will push me to throw even farther, hopefully.

4. With a national title in hand, what kind of goals do you have now for outdoors and beyond? How big an event is the discus for you, compared to the shot, and what are your goals there?

I just want to have the best year that I possibly can in the shot put and discus. I enjoy throwing the discus, and the discus is a more technique-driven event, so my goal in discus is to fix some bad habits. If I fix those bad habits, the distance will come.

5. At Nike Indoor, you said you’d signed with Duke. Can you talk about how the recruiting process went for you and how you settled on that school? How big a role did the academic program of the school play in your decision and what course of study are you most interested in?

I am really excited about attending Duke. From an athletic standpoint, the coaches there really value me and have confidence in my potential. Academically, I feel fortunate to have the chance to attend one of the nation's finest universities. I am unsure about what I want to study.

6. Can you talk a little bit about your background in the throws? How and when did you get interested in them? Who have been your biggest role models? Have you (or do you) play football or other sports, too?

My older brother was a thrower in middle school, and his coach, Paul Gates, saw me and said that I was a really strong kid who should learn how to throw. Through my brother and Coach Gates, I have had a passion for the sport for years. I had been a basketball player my whole life and just gave it up my senior year so that I could focus on track. I draw inspiration from my parents, who bust their tails to give me a good life.

7. You had a chance to compete in the World Youth Championships last summer as part of Team USA. What were some of the most memorable aspects of that trip for you, off the track?

I met so many friends from all over the world. It was incredible to meet many people from so many countries who are so driven to be the best athletes that they can be.

8. When you’re not in the ring or hitting the books, what are your biggest interests or favorite things to do?

I like lifting weights and playing basketball with friends. I love eating, hanging out with my friends, and singing in the shower.

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