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Orchard Park's Barlette succeeds under pressure

by Matthew Ondesko:Managing Editor

Sometimes you are just destined for a certain sport. Orchard Park High School’s Noel Barlette was destined to a runner. She comes from a long lone of athletes, so sports was always going be in her blood.

While most of the athletes in her family were sprinters, football players, and swimmers, Barlette decided to buck that trend. She went in an entirely different directions when it came to her running career.

“I come from a long line of sprinters, football players, and swimmers, so it’s kind of funny how it all played out and how I’m the only distance runner,” stated Barlette. “I used to do a girls on the run elementary school program and I also competed in summer track. I dabbled in a lot of things, but I came to the realization that I had a lot more potential in the distance events based off the results that I was receiving at such a young age.”

Barlette’s grandfather holds the record for the 100 and 200 for the past 50 years. Her grandfather is someone that she has looked up to, and admired, her entire life.

But, the last name also carries a lot of weight. When people see the name Barlette that comes with a lot of expectations. The expectation is that every time she steps on the track, that Barlette will come out on top.

Carrying that type of weight could be tough on anyone, for Barlette she uses it as motivation to go out and run the best race she possibly can.

“My grandfather has held the 100 and 200 county records for over 50 years, he was also a multiple time All-American in track and Football and was recently voted into our section hall of fame for his impressive career performances,” stated Barlette. “To this day whenever people recognize my last name they immediately ask if I’m his granddaughter. He is someone that I have admired and looked up to my whole life. Seeing his success has put some pressure on me as it is a lot to live up to, but I try to channel all of my thoughts and nerves into motivation and ambition as it is one of my key driving factors to my success.”

Her motivation, and ambition, led Barlette to have a very successful season. She reached the expectations she had placed on herself before the season stared. One of her biggest goals was to break the seven minute mark in the steeplechase.

Last year, Barlette was ranked fifth in the steeplechase. When she saw the ranking for the 2024 year, Barlette saws herself at the top of the list. The handwork she put in paid off as she broke the lofty goals she set.

“I am extremely pleased with the results that I have seen this past season. I am also very surprised that I was able to achieve some of my lofty goals; one of those being to break 6:50 in the 2k steeplechase when at the time I couldn’t even break 7 minutes,” stated Barlette. “When I saw that I was #1 for 2024 girls steeplechase rankings, when the year prior I was ranked 5th, I was amazed but also content because the hard work I had been putting in all season had finally paid off. Now approaching cross country season, and seeing my past improvement, I have faith in myself that I will be able to drop my times, and raise my rankings. I am very eager to compete this season in cross country and I hope that I can cap off my senior year with some impressive performances.”

Ever since she has stepped on the track it feels Barlette.was made for stardom. When she is on the track, she runs with a purpose. She runs with a sense that she is the only one out there. Barlette. gets rid of all the noise that’s around her.

She focuses on herself, and the goals that she has set. She doesn’t worry about the other runners around her. Barlette. knows that if she runs her race she can beat anyone. Last season, Barlette. competed at the USATF 2022 Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

It was a busy offseason for Barlette, who competed at the New Balance Nationals, before heading to the USATF 2022 Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which was a great experience for Barlette as she earned All-American status in two events, the 1500 and steeplechase.

“Last year I competed at the USATF 2022 Outdoor Track and Field Championships after the New Balance Nationals meet, and for the first time ever, I was given the All-American honors for the steeplechase and the 1500. Not only was I overjoyed but it also gave me a lot of self-confidence as I tend to doubt myself a lot. That being said, going into this past season, I was very hopeful and optimistic and soon visualization became my new best friend,” explained Barlette. “Visualizing my races, and where I want to be has definitely helped me a lot. Especially in this past season. And when I was under the lights at around midnight for the final race of the day at New Balance Nationals, as soon as I stepped onto the line, I already knew what I had to do because I had rehearsal in my head previously a thousand times. All I had to do was listen to the steps and follow along. With one lap remaining, I knew it was time to make my move and that it wasn’t going to be easy. I had to convince myself that I wanted it more than my competitors. I ended up out-kicking them by a 10th of a second, scoring me 5th place on the podium. Once again, I was overjoyed and filled with excitement. But above all I was relieved because this was the race I had been training up to all season and all of the pressure I had been feeling immediately left my body and at that moment I knew I made my family proud.”

Even with all the accomplishments Barlette has received over the past couple of seasons, she still has lofty goals for herself. It doesn’t matter how well she races, Barlette is very hard on herself. She expects to be the best, even when she races very well, there are times she's feels like she has failed.

She is a runner who keeps these goals to herself. She doesn’t like to share to much about what she is trying to achieve on the track. The only ones who know are her coaches. Her coaches are a big key to her success, and she knows as long as she does her best, she will never let them down.

“I would probably say almost every race. I am very hard on myself, and I tend to feel the feeling of failure time and time again even when it is not necessary. That being said, I go into a race with some very big goals that I prefer to keep to myself or keep it between me and my coaches,” stated Barlette. “I have learned that if you share some of your goals with other people if just adds more pressure on yourself to do even better. But I also know that there are so many runners that can do just fine with talking about it, I just prefer not to. So in a way I try to verbalize a more modest goal with people with a bigger goal in mind as to take some of the pressure off of myself. My coaches have been a big part of my success and I know that as long as I do my best I could never let them down.”

All this success has colleges looking. The recruiting process can be a long, drawn out process, with a lot of schools making promises just to get an athlete on campus. At times it’s tough to decipher what schools are really interested or those that jet want to get you on campus.

As Barlette goes through the process, she knows what she is looking for in a school. She also knows how important the culture of the program can be.

“Definitely the team culture and coaching aspect. If a coach is interested in me then they will show it and usually you get that vibe when your on phone calls or on in person visits. I’m also going to be away from home for over four years so I want to make sure that it feels like family,” stated Barlette. “When I go on visits if I don’t get the right vibe or the school feels like it’s not meant for me, then I make sure to keep it in mind when i'm finalizing my top schools. Piggybacking off of that, if it’s the right school I’ll know. I’m really looking for that gut feeling and also trying to block out other people’s opinions so I can focus on what’s best for me.”

As the summer begins to come to and end, Barlette will not start gearing up her other sport, cross country. After her national races, Barlette gave herself some time off to just relax and heal up from a long season.

Once August hit, she knows starts to ramp up her cross country training. While she builds herself up, Barlette still doesn’t want to burn herself out before the season starts.

“I give myself about a week after the national race to fully rest, and then from that point on, I have been slowly building up my mileage while also incorporating strength training three, four times a week in attempts to build a strong foundation for the cross country season,” stated Barlette. “Usually in August or late July I start to ease up on the tempo and threshold runs and start incorporating some more intense workouts like 1k repeats and hill repeats. But I also have to keep in mind that I don’t want to burn out before the cross country season, so I plan my training accordingly in order to build a sturdy base for the upcoming season.”

A season, and career, that has a lot of promise - and has only touched the surface.

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