GVSU athlete earns academic honor

Barnes nabs Elite 89 Award laurels

By Beau Troutman | 8/24/15 12:15am


Grand Valley State track and field standout Ethan Barnes was named a recipient of the 2015 Elite 89 Award.

Though he was honored to earn the accolade, he had to find out what it was first.

“They had very limited seating and I was standing way in the back. I couldn’t even see the stage, so I wasn’t paying any attention,” Barnes said. “I heard my name, and people were looking at me and they were like, ‘Go up!’ I had absolutely no idea what I was getting an award for.”

The Elite 89 award annually recognizes 89 athletes who epitomize what it means to be a student-athlete. To receive the award, the athlete must compete in the national championship in his or her sport, and have the highest cumulative GPA among all the participants at the championship.

Barnes received the award at a banquet just before the indoor track and field championship this past March, in which the Lakers finished as runners-up.

Barnes’ athletic career at GVSU is well decorated. He holds school records in the 800-meter event (1:49.05) and the 1000-meter event (2:25.29).

“We’ve had a lot of great student-athletes. Is he near the top? Absolutely he’s near the top. He does everything right,” said GVSU head coach Jerry Baltes. “He’s very easy to work with, very coachable, very loyal, very passionate, so it’s been a lot of fun."

Barnes was named an All-American the last two seasons in both indoor and outdoor track and field. Last season, he contributed to a runner-up finish at the men’s indoor championship and notched a 10th place finish at the men’s outdoor championship.

Despite his success, Barnes was not a prized recruit out of high school. He emailed Baltes about trying out for the team, and things took off from there.

“It was kind of scary because I was a sprinter, so the longest I had ever run was five miles, and the first day (the coaches) had us do an eight mile run,” Barnes said. “The first couple weeks was basically I had to keep up, otherwise I was going to be horribly lost. We’d go run on some far away road; I had no idea where I was, I didn’t know anybody, I just kind of hung on. I slowly worked my way up, got in shape and things worked out well from there.”

While athletics highlight Barnes’ headlines and awards, his academic career is an equally important part of his life. Barnes has a 3.888 cumulative GPA while majoring in integrated sciences, and minoring in elementary education.

His degree will give him certification to teach kindergarten through eighth grade science. Last year, Barnes completed a student assisting program for Andrea Eggert’s third grade class at Wealthy Elementary in East Grand Rapids. A student assisting program is the primary requirement before student teaching, which he’ll be doing this fall semester. Barnes was in the classroom five days a week for half the day during the program.

Balancing student assisting work and athletics demanded a lot of time and responsibility, but Barnes handled the challenge admirably.

“It’s a lot of work with the athletics on top of it,” Eggert said. “He was always so respectful of making sure the teaching was a priority, but also that he didn’t skirt his responsibilities in other areas. He never came in and said, ‘Oh, I just didn’t get this done because I was too busy,’ or ‘I didn’t get this done because I had to practice for track.’ He always managed time very well to get everything done.”

Heading into his senior year, Barnes hopes to finally capture a national championship.

“I’ve been third twice, fifth twice, and seventh once, and I think this year is the year to do it,” he said. “And also within that, I think the greater goal is to win one as a team; the guys' team has never won a national championship. I think to do that would be greater than anything I could ever do on my own.”

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