Skip to Main Content

WM: The Long and the Short

The only race distance runner Joe Barnett ’24 ever won in high school was at an indoor meet at Wabash College. The connection he made with the coaches that day ultimately led him to become a member of the “Red Pack” cross country team.

Joe Barnett ’24

“Running is one of the things I truly love,” says Barnett. “I started running when I was in sixth grade. It’s such a measurable sport. The more work you put in, the faster you get—especially when you start out. I got hooked on that. I love competing. I love pushing myself and trying to be the best I can be.”

Day after day it can be challenging to commit to putting in the work it takes as a distance runner, but Barnett says there has never been a day when he didn’t want to go to practice or run on his own.

“Running is just as much a competitive sport for me as it is a hobby,” he says. “So some days, I’m knocking out a workout because it’s important to improve my fitness to be able to beat a lot of people. Then other days, I’m just out on a run because it is what I like to do. That helps. It’s why I’m able to do it day after day, because I’m not always focused on that superintense competitive side.”

Barnett has learned patience through running—or not running.

“I have spent a lot of time injured,” says the runner, who was named NCAC Cross Country Athlete of the Week during the fall season. “I’ve always had big goals for myself, but some of those goals had to wait a couple years since I got delayed with injuries.”

Coach Tyler McCreary admires Barnett’s fortitude.

“What most impresses me about Joe is his quiet strength. He is a guy who is always doing the right thing and leading by example,” says McCreary. “Joe never needs the push or external motivation to do what needs to be done. It’s all internal for him. He has fought through a number of injuries since high school to get where he is today, which is one of the best runners in the conference. None of it was easy and none of it happened by accident.”

Knowing he’ll get there eventually keeps Barnett focused.

“You have to have the long-term picture in mind at all times, and you get there by hitting your short-term goals. It’s important to think, ‘I have this setback now, but I’m eventually going to get there.’ That patience has taught me to show up every day and do what I can to make sure that day has something beneficial come out of it.”

Being able to see the long view has translated to other parts of Barnett’s life, too.

The senior philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) major came to Wabash knowing the career path he wanted to follow, but the more he has learned, the broader his interests have become.

“I’m studying PPE because that’s what a lot of pre-law guys do,” Barnett says. “I found I love my major, but I’m not as sure I want to become a lawyer. That’s OK. I’m learning and developing so much in intangible ways. I trust that whatever I end up doing, I’m going to be prepared for it.”

Barnett, a recipient of the Chase Family Scholarship, calls PPE a “great exercise of problem-solving” and credits his coursework for making him more well-rounded.

“Being able to deeply think about an issue and look at all sides is an important life exercise,” Barnett says, “much more practical than anything I ever thought I’d get out of the major I studied in college.

“Wabash has made me more open-minded because I can think through more complex issues. Some of that is also understanding why those issues exist. Problems aren’t always easy to solve, but it’s sometimes easy to see why they exist because of all the conflicting sides—even in everyday life. PPE has taught me to see those complexities.”

“Running is one of the things I truly love,” says Barnett. “I started running when I was in sixth grade.”His coursework, discipline as an athlete, and being a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity have taught him a lot about himself.

“It’s made me a better member of society,” Barnett says. “That’s probably true for anyone who studies the liberal arts. That’s the point of it—a huge reason to get educated.

“That’s part of the maturity I have gained here. I’ve been challenged a lot. But the competence to be able to do difficult things, especially that conflict like ‘Oh, maybe I don’t want to follow that career path anymore,’ was something I had to get past. I trust I’m headed somewhere. There’s a good direction; I just don’t know exactly where it’s going to go.