Blake Barnett (left) and Travis Barnett in the weight room at Porter Gaud.
Having siblings come through an athletic program can be a blessing or a nightmare for coaches. If there's a crazy parent, the coach has to cope for an era. But, if athletic prowess is in the family tree, that coach's job becomes a lot easier.
Porter Gaud track and field coach Larry Salley hit the jackpot.
Blake Barnett, a rising sophomore at Southern Methodist University in Texas, and Travis Barnett, a rising junior at Porter Gaud, infused the Cyclone program with elite throwing talent.
“The sibling rivalry and Blake being a role model both contributed to Travis' success,” Salley said. “And, you really couldn't ask for a better role model.”
Travis emerged from his brother's shadow during his freshman year. Blake was a senior. After suffering two kneecap dislocations while playing football, Blake limped through the track and field season, postponing surgery until after graduation.
Entering his final throw, Travis was in third place in the discus event at the SCISA state championship meet. Blake was in second and a Pinewood Prep athlete gripped first.
Travis bettered his other two competitors on that last heave. The Pinewood Prep standout then outperformed Travis to reclaim first and Blake's final throw fell short. In second place was the little brother. In third, the older.
Blake handled it better than most. “We've never been the type of brothers who fought over stuff like that,” he said. “We were always encouraging (each other)...I was happy for him.”
It's obvious Travis looked up to Blake growing up. When Blake began playing football, Travis decided to not only give the sport a try, but also play the same position. It was a misfit for Travis, who was much smaller than his older brother who played lineman. Still, Travis became a rare youth athlete with a comfort for the line.
While most players starting a sport seek out the most glamorous positions, like quarterback or running back, Travis wanted to emulate his brother, even if it meant being the center.
The two got to play football with each other during Blake's senior season and Travis' freshman season at Porter Gaud. Travis was promoted from junior varsity to varsity early in the year.
“That was fun,” Blake said. “That the first time I got to play with him.”
“I was his backup,” Travis said of his offensive lineman brother, “but I also played linebacker.”
Then, Blake helped turn Travis toward track and field, specifically discus and shot put. Blake won the state championship in shot put his junior year. “We'd go out on Saturdays, and I'd help him with his footwork and he'd help me too.”
Travis has kept the Barnett momentum going and his personal bests are approaching the Cyclone school record for both throwing events. He already owns the SCISA record – Porter Gaud was a member of another athletic affiliation when the current school records were made.
“I text him after every meet,” Travis said. “If I win a medal, I'll send him a picture of the medal.”
Blake smiled and acknowledged he gets to live through Travis' successes from afar. “He's only going to be a junior next year, so I'm excited to see what he can do.”
Travis is about a dozen feet away from breaking the school record of 164 feet in discus. He said the school's shot put record is 53 feet and his personal record is 46-feet-6-inches.
Salley said the expectations for Travis to break both marks are not unrealistic. He referred to both Barnetts as “gameday competitors” with an “uncanny ability to focus.” Salley added that Travis should draw considerable collegiate scholarship attention. “There are plenty of places that would love to have him,” he said.
But, what impresses Salley the most about the Barnett brothers is their character, he said. “They're the type of guys you want on your team whether they throw 150 feet or 15.”
Travis is open to joining his brother at Southern Methodist after high school graduation. Although they've followed similar paths both their lives, the little brother could go down a path not already worn by his older brother and friend.
“I'll apply (to Southern Methodist),” Travis said, “but I want to try and throw somewhere.”