Coach Jenkins Interviews Cross Country and Track & Field Coach Ernest Barrett
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Ernest Barrett begins his 10th season as the head cross country/track and field coach at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore after previously serving five years at Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference(MEAC) rival Coppin State University.
Barrett has an impressive collegiate track resume, ranging from being named MEAC Outstanding Coach seven times to having coached 10 NCAA national qualifiers. Since finding his home in Princess Anne, Barrett has coached many more athletes who have qualified and competed at NCAA Regional and national competition.
The 2008 women's cross country team captured the MEAC championship for the second year in a row and the men wre second with Barrett being named Most Outstanding Coach for the meet.
The 2007 season could not have started any better for Barrett as his men's and women's cross country teams captured both 2007 MEAC Championships. On the women's side, Merrecia James won the event with a season best time of 18:27.7, which earned her MEAC Outstanding Performer honors. The Lady Hawks scored 47 points and the men had 45. The women's championship team consisted of James, Betty Chumbe, Tamica Thomas, Celia Whyte, Janeth Chelangat, Danai Lendor, Tanisha Wisdom, and Tiffany Webb, while the men's team featured Peter Sang, Amon Kiprotich, Solomon Kirongo, Clayton James, Nathaniel Taylor, Jerome Pyuzza, Samuel Mwangi, Paul Jones-Burden.
"All season we have stressed running as a pack, as a team," said Barrett at the time. "We knew if we were going to win we had to have our team finish among the top 10. In cross country, I stress working as a team and both teams did that."
The women's indoor team also earned a MEAC championship.
Seven Hawks (James, Kiprotich, Lendor, Celia, Sang, Saisha Woodward and Allodin Fothergill) earned the right to participate in NCAA Outdoor Regionals. Barrett also helped Fothergill to a spot on the Jamaican team in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
Building on the success of the 2006 season, Barrett's teams were quite impressive. In six chances (men's and women's cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field) UMES took five second-place finishes and became a force to be reckoned with in the MEAC.
Nationally UMES sent two athletes to the NCAA Championships in indoor track and field. Kimani Kirton (men's shot put) and Tanisha Wisdom (women's 400-meter dash) both had top-20 performances. In outdoor competition, the team improved even more with Ronnie Beard earning an at-large spot in the 400-meter hurdles and Kirton again competing in the shot put. Kirton earned All-American status, Barrett's first at UMES with an eighth place, personal-best throw of 18.88 meters (61 feet, 11.5 inches).
"Kimani has consistently been a strong performer for us," said Barrett. "This is a great achievement for him and the entire men's program."
Previously, 2006 had marked a new era for Barrett and the Hawks. For the first time in seven years, Barrett had three of his own receive at-large bids the 2006 NCAA Indoor Championship. Jason Daley, Danieth Pryce, and Dwayne Robinson all qualified for the event. That season, Daley recorded the 10th highest mark in the country in the men's long jump with his leap of 7.71 meters (25.29 feet) while Pryce broke a conference record with her time of 7.32 in the 60m dash at the 2006 MEAC Indoor Championship.
"That was a huge milestone for us because that was the first time we've sent anyone to NCAA's during the idoor season," Barrett said. "Those accomplishments show the strength of our program."
Four Lady Hawks qualified for the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Championship. The women's 4x100m relay squad, comprised of Pryce, Tanisha Wisdom, Cierra Layne and Shakira Robinson, earned a birth in the field after setting a school record with a time of 44.61 at the NCAA East Regionals. The Hawks' selection for NCAAs marked the second consecutive year that UMES was represented on the national level for both the indoor and outdoor championship.
"This feat helps validate our sprinting program as one of the best," said Barrett.
During his time at Coppin, Barrett coached three All-Americans in the 800 (Diana Pitts in 1994, Twana Allen in 1996, and Ian Roberts in 1997), three participants in the USA Track and Field Championships (Pitts in `94, Damion Johnson in `97 and `99), two Olympic trials qualifiers (Pitts and Allen in `96), two World Indoor Track Championship participants (Johnson and Roberts in `99), and one world-record holder and World Champion (Damion Johnson for the United States 4x400-meter relay team in `99).
Barrett served as the assistant coach at Coppin for one year before taking over the reigns as head coach. Prior to working with the Eagles, Barrett was the head coach of the track and field program at Falls Church High School in Falls Church, Va.
A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Barrett also has an outstanding resume as an athlete. He was an Olympic trial qualifier and garnered All-American honors seven times in the 800 meters, the 4X800 relay, and 4X400 relay. He was a member of the 4X800 relay team that broke the world record in 1989 with a time of 7:17.77.
Barrett is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. He enjoyed a successful track career at George Mason University, earning a B.S. degree in Community Health Education in 1991.
Barrett currently resides in Salisbury, Md., with his wife, Antoinette, and two daughters, Tasia and Kristen.