Downingtown West senior Aiden Barnhill, the Daily Local News 2020 All-Area Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year, paid tribute to his teammates after finishing first at the District 1 Class 3A Cross Country Championships.
“I would not be the runner I am today without my teammates Declan Rymer, Holden Betz, Henry Debuque, Zack Zaros, and many more,” said Barnhill, who completed the Tyler State Park track in 16:21.40, three seconds head of runner-up Devon Comber of Hatboro Horsham.
Led by the senior quintet of Barnhill, Rymer, Betz, Debuque and Zaros, the Whippets finished first in the team competition at Districts as well.
“Our coach [Scott Burns] did such a great job preparing us for that day and it really showed by how well we ran,” said Barnhill. “I remember the wind was strong at the top of the park and nobody wanted to take the lead. So I knew then that I can put together a strong last mile to fight for the win. I think this was definitely my best race of the season.”
Six days later, at the PIAA 3A state championships, Barnhill capped off his standout fall season with a fourth-place finish and a clocking of 16:19, just 12 seconds behind the winner, State College senior Brady Bigger.
“Leading up to states, I was confident because of our team’s performance at Districts,” said Barnhill. “I think having Districts delayed was a bit of a factor going into the state meet and caused us to be a little more fatigued going into the race.
“We fell short of our goal of first place [the Whippets finished first in 2019] and took third, but we realized that it’s not what you do when you win, it’s about what you do when you lose that makes you a great team. And we are more motivated than ever leading into this spring track season.
“It was a very promising race; I fell short of my goal of winning but took the time to reflect on my team’s success.”
Barnhill and his Downingtown West teammates accomplished a lot in the fall of 2020, considering that the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to cancel the entire 2020 cross country season.
“Training during the pandemic was hard and is still hard,” said Barnhill. “My team was fortunate enough to be able to meet most days over summer and we had a great build up and we had some of the best workouts that we have ever run over summer. The focus on my team’s goals and my individual goals kept me going. Waking up every day and just enjoying the sport helped me push forward and have quality training.
“Right now, I’m just enjoying training and enjoying the process of becoming good, because you have to take every day as a gift and be grateful for health and happiness.”
Earlier this fall, Barnhill had a particularly enjoyable moment at the Ches-Mont Championships, when he and Rymer came down the stretch neck-and-neck to finish 1-2 (Rymer won). When the Downingtown West senior duo crossed the finish line together, they exchanged celebratory hand-slaps.
“Declan is such a great runner and is one of my best friends,” said Barnhill. “He is such a hard worker and has helped the team so much on and off the cross country courses. Ches-Monts was a sit and kick race, and after it was just me and Declan the last 400 meters, and I knew Declan has a strong kick and he would love to win that race.”
Barnhill’s favorite local running venue is Marsh Creek State Park.
“I like Marsh Creek because of the endless trails and great roads surrounding the park,” said Barnhill.
Barnhill relies on variety of footwear for training.
“For an everyday trainer, I use the Saucony Hurricane ISO 5 – they have great support and keep me healthy and feeling bouncy every day,” said Barnhill. “For more of those speed/tempo days on the track and roads, I’ll use the Saucony Endorphin Speed, which has a great lift and poppy feeling that keeps me feeling amazing for my workouts. My spikes are the Saucony Havok – I just love these spikes.”
When asked to describe his pre-race routine on the day of a race, Barnhill responded, “I wake up and try to calm myself down by watching YouTube or a movie or TV show. I eat granola and peanut butter for breakfast. I roll out and make sure I’m nice and loose. Then I jump in our van with my boys and we head to wherever the meet is. Then finally I drink either coffee or some Nuun with caffeine before the warmup.”
After Barnhill completes his indoor and outdoor track season for Downingtown West this spring, he is looking forward to continuing his running career at Northern Arizona University in the fall.
Burns said, “We are so proud of the incredible mindset and habits that Aiden has developed in his four years as a Whippet. His dedication to all of the small details, as well as his capacity to foster meaningful relationships, is really what sets him apart. When you team up great passion and gratitude with great ability and focus you are going to see great success.”
FUN FACTS >> AIDEN BARNHILL
Favorite book: Like Father Like Son, by Matthew Centrowitz.
Favorite TV show: The 100.
Favorite movie: The Patriot.
Favorite athlete: Evan Jager.
Favorite pre-meet pump-up song: If I Can’t by 50 cent
Favorite place to visit: Outer Banks, N.C.
Favorite pre-meet meal: Granola with peanut butter and almond milk.
Person I most admire, and why: “Coach Scott Burns, because his dedication and passion for his team and the sport of running in general is unmatched. He is one of my favorite people and the nicest and overall best person you will ever meet. He is such a great coach but an even better friend and mentor to me.”
Family members: parents Brent and Sheryl, sister Hailey, brother Ian, dogs Nala and Baylor.