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Hampton's Barry Britt has set a number of running records this season while running for the Idaho University Vandals. Photo: Submitted

Track

Hampton runner will race in Moncton

HAMPTON — Barry Britt is nearing the home stretch of his American college track and field career.

The 22-year-old Hampton native and senior distance runner with the University of Idaho Vandals is approaching the final few races of his five-year stint at the NCAA Division 1 level.

With the indoor season now behind him, Britt and his fellow Vandals are working toward a chance to represent their school at the Western Conference outdoor regionals, which will be held in Austin, Texas, starting May 8.

But before that, he’s got a few stops to make, including meets in California, Oregon and then a home track Vandal Jamboree race set for May 3.

This week, he’s heading to Mount San Antonio College at Azuza, Calif., for a two-day event.

It’s a pretty busy life, according to the general studies major.

“It being my last semester at university, my class schedule isn’t extremely overwhelming,” said Britt, a member of the Saint John Track Club. “But I have two running sessions every day. Twice a week I do a hard track session and the other days I have weight sessions.”

Britt is building toward the May 8 meet, where he will compete in the 5,000-metre event.

In the lead-up to regionals, he’ll also try running several 10,000-metre and 1,500-metre races.

As much as he’s hoping for a berth at nationals, Britt said he’s more concerned with improving his personal best times, and setting himself up for a solid summer of racing, which will include an appearance at the upcoming 2013 Canadian Track and Field Championships to be held at the Stade Moncton 2010 Stadium from June 20 to 23.

A top-eight performance there could be enough to qualify him for the World University Games and the World Francophone Games.

“Nationals is where you compete against the best athletes,” said Britt, who will compete in either the 5,000-metre or 10,000-metre event in Moncton.

“Doing so makes you better … (it’s about) becoming a better athlete.”

The NCAA path has proven fruitful for Britt, who originally attended the University of Georgia following his graduation from Hampton High School in 2008.

After the program at Georgia went through some transformations, Britt transferred to Idaho to train under Canadian coach Wayne Phipps.

In the years since his transfer, Britt has racked up a long list of accolades, including several first- and second-team Western Athletic Conference all-conference distinctions for his performances in indoor, outdoor and cross-country events.

With graduation upon him, Britt still isn’t sure what the future will hold.

While attaining professional sponsorship isn’t a likelihood, he still plans to train and compete in the future.

One possibility could see him return to Idaho next year as a graduate assistant on the team’s coaching staff.

As far as career aspirations go, the soon-to-be 23-year-old admits he’s not sure what he wants to do.

He’d like to become a firefighter like his father, Paul, but running is his focus for now.

He just needs to find a way to finance it.

“Since I’m a sub-elite runner, I shouldn’t just stop,” he said of his impending graduation. “But if I can’t sign a pro contract right now, coaching would be the perfect option, allowing me to train and help out with the team while focusing on my own running.”

Reflecting on his time as a student south of the border, Britt rates his experience a 10 out of 10.

He encourages other New Brunswick runners to take a stab at the NCAA route, even though it might seem like a daunting road at first.

“Southern New Brunswick athletes should know, the States are a great opportunity,” he said.

“They’re often told to stay in Canada, but you can still go south and find a Canadian coach. If kids get the opportunity to explore it, I hope they do. The last four or five years has been an amazing experience, and I don’t know if I would’ve had these opportunities in Canada. Don’t be scared of the unknown.”