Barnitz plans to run, not walk to Wright State

Published 8:08 pm Saturday, December 10, 2022

Fairland Lady Dragons senior cross country and track standout Reece Barnitz signed a letter-of-intent with Wright State University on Friday. Attending the signing ceremony were, seated left to right, sister Kamryn Barnitz, father John Barnitz, Reece, and mother Tracy Barnitz; standing left to right, cross country coach Chuck Wentz and girls’ basketball caoch Jon Buchanan. (Photo By Tim Gearhart)

By Jim Walker

PROCTORVILLE — In the Christmas story “Santa Claus is Coming To Town,” Santa tells Winter Warlock that walking is easy and you just put one foot in front of the other.

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That may sound easy for them, but not for Fairland Lady Dragons’ senior cross country runner Reece Barnitz.

Ankle braces Reece Barnitz wore as a toddler (Photo By Tim Gearhart)

Barnitz was diagnosed to have developmental delays when she was born. The condition left her legs weak and wobbly and subject to breaking. The pediatrician told her parents she might never run properly or particularly fast. She wore braces the first 5 years of her life  and when she did finally walk, Barnitz said she was “clumsy and fell a lot.”

Barnitz said she wrote an essay about the problem and said, “I might not have had the opportunity to run, so to be able to run at all let alone doing it at the next level is really important to me.”

Fairland's Reece Barnitz

Fairland’s Reece Barnitz

Even today when she is playing basketball for the Lady Dragons she has her moments.

“I do fall a lot,” she said with a laugh.

But not only has she been able to run, she is running at a level that has taken her to Wright State University.

Barnitz signed a letter-of-intent on Friday to run cross country and track for the Raiders.

Barnitz said she had a lot of smaller schools contract her but Wright State was the only school to offer what she wanted academically.

“I was kind of drawn there because they have a medical school there and I’ve always wanted to a school that has a medical school kind of like twined in so that I can get that experience early on and not have to worry about trying to get in somewhere else,” said Barnitz whose boyfriend Gavin Lochow will be attending nearby Dayton University to play quarterback in football.

“I like that and I like all the girls there, too. (Her boyfriend being close) That’s a bonus I guess.”

Although Barnitz has overcome her early childhood handicap, it hasn’t been a smooth road to get where she’s at now.

Barnitz said she has always played sports like softball, basketball, volleyball among others. But in the sixth grade she decided to run cross country and results weren’t something that made someone think she would pursue the sport.

“I was not very good at all,” she said with a chuckle. “Seventh grade I ran track and I started to like it a lot more. Eighth grade track again and still not running cross country for other sports.

“And then high school ninth grade we had COVID and no track running so I was kind of drawn away from it. And then when I came to Fairland in the tenth grade I ran track and I fell in love with it. That was when I said ‘OK, this is my thing.’ ”

Barnitz skipped volleyball her junior year to run cross country and she fell in love with it.

“The last few years is when I really got into it and decided this is what I want to do. If I’m going to play a college sport, it’s going to be running,” Barnitz said.

By running cross country, Barnitz said it has benefitted her in basketball as well.

“Everyone tells me I’m the one who looks the least tired on the court and I’m just running back and forth,” said Barnitz.

Going to Wright State means Barnitz will be in the middle of the pack among the runners and have to work her way up the depth chart.

“It’s still going to be all year round. I’ll have cross country the fall and straight into winter which is indoor track and in the spring it’s outdoor track. I’m ready to do it all year long,” she said.

Fairland cross country and track coach Chuck Wentz said Barnitz made an impression on the coaches when she decided to run track her sophomore year.

“She started running track for us and that’s when we knew she was going to be pretty good,” said Wentz.

“Then she started putting some miles in over the summer and really picked it up and became a really good cross country runner.”

Barnitz was on her way to a record-setting season before an injury sidelined the promising season.

“This year, she was within under 10 seconds of our mile record in August. We hadn’t done any speed training yet so she well on her way to breaking our mile record and  and maybe our 5K record in cross country before she got her injury,” said Wentz.

“Very seldom do you have a girl who will text you on Sunday morning and ask if it’s OK for me to run 10 miles today? She’s a phenomenal athlete and a phenomenal student. She’s a student all the time. She’s always paying attention and learning and she’s will to put in the work. When she puts in the work, she has great results.”

Her 4.6 grade point average is the result of Barnitz’ study habits that she puts first on her list of priorities.

Barnitz plans to major in Bio-chemistry biology.

“I really want to go to med school,” she said.