Cody Barger was in a constant race against the clock the day of this year’s state cross country championships in Carrollton.
Barger, a North Hall senior, was striving the hardest to win out against the state’s other fastest runners, which he did with a time of 15 minutes, 35 seconds, but the sprint didn’t finish there.
Actually, it was just beginning.
After finishing with the best time in any classification, he proudly took to the podium where he was recognized as the state champion in Class AAA. However, that’s when the next sprint began for Barger and his family who came to the state championships on that blustery, cold Saturday at Carrollton High.
You see, Barger, The Times’ Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, had an important meeting to make shortly after taking to the podium, which was more important to his future than any cross country meet. He was on a race against the clock for a 1 p.m. interview with an advisory committee for U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss in hopes of earning a recommendation to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a must for any prospective student.
The meeting time Barger was given for that day was a bit of a blessing. Had it been scheduled for earlier in the day at the Cobb Galleria in Smyrna, he wouldn’t have been able to run at the state championships. However, the timing for Barger was perfect. With just enough time, as in a matter of minutes, Barger won the state championship, graciously accepted his ribbon and ran to the car for the 45-minute drive back to the meeting location.
“It was a pretty stressful day,” said Cody’s father, Dr. Brett Barger. “It was good that he was still able to run the race and make it to the meeting on time.
“Cody said he still would have stayed for the awards presentation if he hadn’t won because he felt it would look like poor sportsmanship on his part if he didn’t.”
On the way to the meeting, that’s when Barger had an important decision to make: Should he change into the suit and tie that he brought, or just go in dressed like a runner and explain the circumstances?
Instead of wearing his Sunday’s best, Barger slipped on jogging pants and his shirt from the state championships and headed into the building just in the nick of time of his appointment.
“I told Cody, if you go in wearing jogging pants, you’re going to make an impression, whether good or bad,” his father added.
“I was really comfortable during the interview,” Barger said. “There were a bunch of other kids there, so by the time they got to my appointment, they were running a little behind.”
Apparently, the interviewing committee was understanding of Barger’s story. The day before Thanksgiving, he received a personal phone call from Chambliss informing him of the all-important recommendation letter. According to his father, there’s also a recommendation from U.S. Rep. Tom Graves for his son to attend West Point.
“I think Cody is making very mature decisions about his future,” Dr. Barger said. “He knows that West Point isn’t an opportunity that comes without obligations.
“He’s well aware of that.”
Barger decided in the past two years that going to the U.S. Military Academy was the path he wanted to take for his future and has already been assured a spot on the cross country team by coaches at Army, should he be accepted. This season, the Black Knights placed third in the Patriot League.
“The coaches at Army have been calling me for quite some time now,” Barger said. “I was born in the Army, so this is a decision I’ve thought about for a long time.”
Barger’s father was an Army physician for eight years as his way of paying for medical school, so the family moved around regularly when Cody was a child. He was born in Colorado, but lived in Ohio, Columbus and St. Simons Island before settling in Gainesville eight years ago.
Barger says that this year’s state-best time at the cross country meet goes back to work that started six years ago when at North Hall Middle. Winning at state was a direct result of putting in thousands of miles running and never resting.
“I never take a day off from running,” Barger said.