Instead of trying to throw the shot farther than anyone else in Class B again this winter, Zoe Barnes has been resigned to watching a lot of videos.

The Gray-New Gloucester senior hopes all of that screen time will be an asset when she competes for the first time in nearly a calendar year — her most recent meet was the New England indoor championships on Feb. 29, 2020. This weekend, Barnes is set to compete in the shot put at the Adidas Indoor Track & Field National Championships this coming weekend in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Gray New Gloucester’s Zoe Barnes, shown competing at the 2019 Class B outdoor track and field state championships, won the Class B shot put at the 2020 indoor meet as a junior. Kennebec Journal file photo

Her state-title winning throw of 37 feet, 11.75 inches at last year’s Class B indoor track and field championship was good enough to qualify her for this year’s Adidas Indoor Nationals, which were announced at the end of January. Gray-NG throwing coach Jeff Amos notified Barnes about the meet and that she had met the qualifying standards.

“I am beyond excited,” Barnes said. “At first I was unsure (about going) because of COVID, but I realized I couldn’t give up this opportunity. I think the experience is going to be great. I’m really excited to see some amazing throwers.”

Barnes’ preparation in the lead-up to the biggest meet of her career has been less-than-ideal. Between Cumberland County being being designated “yellow” for much of the winter season, and Gray-New Gloucester going to remote-early learning on occasion, there have been few opportunities for the indoor track team — which has had no competitions this season — to train together.

“We’ve only had four weeks of practice since the beginning of indoor season last December,” Amos said. “Nevertheless, her attitude has remained positive. She may not have enjoyed the ideal preparation, but many of her competitors are likely in the same boat.”

“A lot of my training is watching videos of professional and collegiate throwers,” Barnes said, “which is perfect for this year because almost everything has been virtual. That has been one big thing that has helped me train, and, of course, the gym.”

Gray-New Gloucester’s Kassidy Plummer, Caitlyn Smith, Zoe Barnes and Maddie Soule were one of the top throwing groups in Class B in 2019-20. Sun Journal file photo Buy this Photo

Gray-NG head coach Mike Griffin praised Amos for helping Barnes and the other throwers make the best of what training opportunities they’ve had.

“(Jeff) has been trying to instill in the GNG throwers to take advantage of this ‘disruption’ and improve form/strength and resilience. The throws group has a very strong supportive culture, and Zoe has been an integral part in setting a positive example for her teammates,” Griffin said. “Unfortunately, we have had to be full remote several times this winter season, which has negatively impacted Zoe’s consistency in her training. Zoe has persevered either by working out on her own or throwing and doing form drills in the driveway when it’s 25 degrees. She has tried to stay focused.”

Barnes isn’t sure where she stands going into the national meet, or what to expect from her performance. The auxiliary gym that the indoor track team practices in at Gray-New Gloucester isn’t big enough to measure the types of throws that she can unleash. She said the throwers have been focused more on technique than distance anyway.

“It would be great for her to get back to the upper 30s in her first competition in nearly a year, but in the end, we are proud of her and she should proud of herself for wanting to take on this challenge,” Griffin said.

Barnes said she isn’t concerned about what distance she achieves this weekend.

“My goal is just to take it like any other meet. Enjoy the experience and just throw,” she said.

Amos, who has been coaching Barnes since sixth grade, knows what she is capable of if she’s on her game.

“She had a 40-foot throw during warmups of last indoor state meet. If she can get inspired by the level of competition, I believe that she could equal or exceed that distance this weekend,” Amos said. “I’ll only be mildly surprised if she ends up throwing the shot put so far that it goes into orbit around the Earth.”

Barnes is hoping the Adidas Indoor Nationals won’t be the last track meet of her high school career. Should there be an outdoor season, she could be one of the top contenders in Class B in both the shot put and discus, according to Amos.

“I am grateful to be able to practice minimally, but it definitely isn’t the same not having meets,” Barnes said. “Meets are where you can see where you have really improved, and not having that can be frustrating sometimes.” 

“The group of throwers and I have been using this indoor season as a preseason for outdoor,” Barnes added, “and I think we are going to come in really strong.”

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