When Silsbee sprinter Kalon Barnes blew away the Class 4A competition at last week’s UIL state track and field meet, it was business as usual.
Such is life when you walk away from the state’s biggest annual showcase of athletic talent as the fastest dude in the stadium for a second straight year.
This time he walked away as the fastest prep athlete in the country.
Barnes smoked Myers Stadium with a blistering 10.04 time to win his second straight gold medal in the 100 meters. His clocking was over the allowable wind limit of 2 meters per second, meaning it will not go down as an official national record, but it remains the fastest time by a high school athlete under any conditions. Ever.
“It felt great,” Barnes said. “My main focus was coming out of the blocks during my week off. When I looked at the scoreboard, it was already at 9 seconds, so I wanted to make sure I finished strong.”
And in case his new fans were in search of an encore, he followed that up with a ridiculously easy gold medal finish in the 200 at 20.55. Defending two state sprint titles puts him right there with the most decorated athletes in Silsbee history. But he’s not even the only Silsbee sprinter in his own family to win the 100 and 200 in the same state meet.
Thirty years ago, a senior by the name of Chris Barnes captured both the 100 and 200 at the state meet, leading the school to the state team title. The nationally ranked sprinter went on to play football and run track at Blinn College and East Texas State (now Texas A&M-Commerce), but he fell short of his Olympic dream after getting injured preparing for the 1992 Olympic Trials. He also missed out on a chance to be Olympic teammates with childhood friend Mark Henry, a powerlifter who represented the U.S. in the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain, and the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
Two decades later, Chris has become his son’s unofficial coach. Kalon could be Silsbee’s second Olympian, not bad for a Southeast Texas town of about 7,000. He is already in the same speed class as the area’s greatest sprinters, a list that includes Galveston’s Marlon Ramsey, Beaumont’s Ivory Williams, Port Arthur’s Jamaal Charles, Jasper’s Bryan Bronson, and his dad, of course. Olympic gold would move him up in the pecking order, to be sure.
When I asked Henry if he would take a high school senior Chris or present-day Kalon in a sprint showdown, he didn’t hesitate to answer.
“I have to give it up to Kalon,” said Henry, who threw the shot and discus for the 1988 state champs. “He has the advantage of having a dad who was there pushing him and telling him, ‘I don’t want you to be rotten.’ Kalon puts in the work.”
The kid agrees.
“I’m faster,” he said. “My dad didn’t run 10.12 until he got to college.”
And the possibility of competing in the Olympics?
“It’s something I think about, but I’m also focused on football,” he said. “I want to be great at both.”
His exploits in the 100 get the most notice, but his dad believes the 200 is his race. Sunday’s time was the second-fastest in the nation among high school sprinters under all conditions.
“He didn’t even run the curve” at state, Chris said. “He just ran the straightaway. He stopped running 10 meters before he got to the tape and still ran a 20.5.”
As for football, Kalon fell in love with Baylor when his dad took him to a Little Dribblers Tournament in Waco when he was 10. Chris Barnes said he always wanted his son to attend Texas, and with the Baylor sexual assault scandal that made national headlines, he asked Kalon during the season if he was still sure about his college choice.
“I’m sure,” Kalon said. “I want to go to Baylor and make a difference, on and off the field.”
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Barnes caught 45 passes for 805 yards and eight touchdowns last season and chose Baylor over offers from Texas A&M, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa State, Kansas and Missouri, to name a few. He has nice upside on a football field, but imagine what he might do with a full training regimen geared toward track.
Silsbee track coach Michael Allen grew up in California and says Barnes is scarier than one of the most electrifying athletes to come out that state, Reggie Bush.
“I’m not taking anything from Reggie, but Kalon is freakishly fast,” Allen said. “He didn’t even start running track this season until after spring break because he was playing basketball. It just tells you how talented he is.”
Oh, yeah, Barnes was also a power forward on Silsbee’s two-time Class 4A state basketball champs.
What doesn’t the guy do?
How about lose?