Years of competing on wooded and snowy trails has steadily reinforced Tucker Barber’s confidence, pluck and discipline.

Bates College’s Tucker Barber (10) competes in the 2019 NCAA Championships. d3photography.com

He was also the type of high school student that any teacher would pay good money to have in the classroom. His academic excellence continues at Bates College as he prepares to finish his senior year.

The Nordic skier and cross country runner, who now participates in both sports at Bates College, is also faced with the continued uncertainty of COVID-19.

Barber, a physics-and-math double major, knows how to tough it out on a grueling Nordic course in the dead of winter, but the coronavirus’s interruptions have tested his resolve. But this determined athlete, with his roll-with-the-punches attitude, refuses to allow the pandemic to wear him down.

“It has kind of been a long time at this point. It is hard not get too jaded these days,” the soft-spoken Barber said. “(But) I am in a very great place. I am glad for that. It is kind of a weird point in my life. This (senior year) was my last buffer into figuring my stuff out. This is my last year of semi-certainty.

“It has been a lot to take in these past couple of months, as I am sure it has been for everyone. I feel like we have been numbing ourselves for awhile. Who knows what the worldwide effect will be. Hopefully we will get through it. My tentative plans have kind of been scrambled.”

He said the pandemic clearly demonstrates “how at the mercy of the universe you are. It kinds of wakes you up a little bit.”

LOST SEASON

The shock waves from the coronavirus continue. Barber will be deprived of his final cross country season at Bates this fall and the Nordic season remains up in the air.

“Competitively, it looks like the (cross country season) is gone,” he said. “I haven’t totally grasped it yet, but it is tough, for sure.”

Being hustled off the campus last spring after COVID-19 overran Maine “was definitely a shock” to Barber.

“Picking up, leaving and going back home was very surreal,” he recalled.

For the past three seasons, Barber turned in some impressive performances for the Bobcats cross country team.

Barber’s composure and consistency has always impressed Bates men’s cross country coach Albert Fereshetian. 

“He never gets rattled. He is always in control of his efforts and emotions,” Fereshetian said. “His composure really points to his character.

“His internal confidence gives him the strength and ability to set realistic goals and stay committed to a steady path that allows him to reach those goals. Tucker really cares about everything he does and about the people around him. He is excellent at bringing the best out of his teammates.”

In 2019, he finished 135th out of 280 individuals to lead Bates at the NCAA Division III Championships, covering the 8-kilometer course in 25:40.9. He finished 53rd out of 384 runners at the NCAA Division III New England Regional Championships and placed 27th out of 145 runners at the NESCAC Championships. He also had a shining sophomore year, earning USTFCCCA All-Academic honors. He finished fourth on the team and 207th out of 280 runners overall with a time of 26:13.6, helping the Bobcats place 26th out of 32 teams at the NCAA Championships.

HOLDING HIS BREATH

Barber said Bates has yet to decide on the fate on the Nordic ski season.

“I am being really reserved, really cautious about getting really excited about that,” he said.

“He has been an incredible athlete for us,” Bates Nordic coach Becky Woods said. “I think when we can get some of the top athletes in Maine, we are getting so much more than that when they come to Bates.

“(Tucker) is driven; he’s dedicated, committed. He is respected by his teammates because he puts the work in. He is one of the most responsible and thoughtful athletes we have. He is the first one to ask if we need help. He’s the first one to check on his teammates. He is selfless, which is something you don’t always get with athletes.

“He is really able to prioritize, so he is a great student. He’s a great athlete. School is always going to be his priority.” 

Tucker Barber (61) competes at the Harvard Carnival Nordic race. flyingpointroad.com

Barber has also been a force on the Nordic team. He finished 37th with a time of 57:38.8 in the 20K classical technique race at the Middlebury Carnival, good for 13 carnival points. He also placed 38th out of 68 competitors in the 10K freestyle with a time of 24:59.6, earning 14 carnival points to pace the Bobcats. As a junior, he earned All-State honors at the Chummy Broomhall Cup, finishing ninth overall (27:50.4). He finished 43rd with a time of 58:33.1 in the 20K classical technique race and led the Bobcats in the men’s 10K skate, placing 34th out of 64 competitors in 26:37.0 at the Bates Carnival.

“I am so hopeful we can pull something together for the winter,” Woods said. “It is not guaranteed and it is a hard lesson. It is a different space we are living in right now.”

ALL IN A DAY’S WORK

Barber has learned how to balance the responsibility of playing two sports and academics.

“It definitely keeps me busy,” he said. “The first year there is a lot to adjust to. Each year, you get more comfortable with it and enjoy it more. It has been very good.”

Bates has a variety of athletes on the cross country and Nordic ski teams, whereas in high school, Barber said: “Things are very specialized (at college), where in high school the Nordic team was kind of the cross country team with a few substitutions here and there.

“The pool expands a lot more (at the college level). You are no longer just in your region. Your world expands.” 

Barber said experiences have been positive at Bates as he gets ready to return to Lewiston.

“That’s my plan currently. It is kind of uncertain, but yeah. But as of now, I will be going back to campus,” he said.

He interned at Aptuitiv, a high-tech company in Farmington, as a web developer, which turned into a full-time gig for him this summer. Much of his responsibilities revolve around building websites for other companies.

“I do like it a lot. It is definitely my favorite job I have had so far,” Barber said. “It is a great way to spend the summer. I feel very, very lucky to have it this summer.”

“Tucker is incredibly respected by his teammates” Fereshetian said. “He will serve as one of our captains during this COVID fall. I know despite the huge disappointment of losing the season, he will still find a way to make a significant difference to our program, to his teammates and to future Bates teams. He is an outstanding young man.”


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