Mitch Barnes always thought he had the ability to earn a college scholarship for his athletic prowess. He just didn't think it would be in track.
Barnes announced Monday he would attend West Virginia Wesleyan College next fall to run for head coach Jesse Skiles. Barnes was a member on the Cougars' vaunted relay teams which advanced to the state track and field meet the past two seasons, ran in the 200 open a few meets and long jumped.
"I thought I had a shot at running track (in college)," Barnes said. "Coach Skiles had seen some of my basketball games, and I think he knew I was athletic.
"I was still sort of surprised. I wouldn't have imagined I'd be running in college."
Skiles said he sees Barnes running in more open races and possibly earning a spot on the Bobcats' 4x400 relay team.
After running in middle school, Barnes sat out his freshman and sophomore seasons before running competitively again his final two years at Lincoln.
"I guess I was kind of intimidated by the older kids," Barnes said. "I probably shouldn't have been. I wanted to concentrate on basketball, too."
Barnes said he has talked to some of the Wesleyan basketball staff and hasn't ruled out trying to walk on the team. He was an All-Harrison County and All-Big 10 Conference performer the past two seasons. This year, he averaged 11.6 points and nailed 27 3-pointers for the Cougars, who finished 14-9. However, he said his attention will be focused on the track.
"We're very glad to get him," Skiles said. "First and foremost, he's a very good athlete.
"He's going to help us. The thing he might have to adjust to is running in the open events. At Lincoln, he was on some tremendous relay teams. I think his attention will have to shift more on being an open racer now, and I'd like to see him get on the 4x400 (relay) team."
Barnes joins Robert C. Byrd's Tony Shade as the second boys track and field athlete to sign with West Virginia Wesleyan. The girls team also signed Robert C. Byrd's Liann Gottschling and Elkins' Misty Judy.
"It's going to be nice having people there I know, but it didn't influence me that much," Barnes said. "I loved the campus and like the coaches there. It's a great school."
Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at email@example.com