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From Walk-On to Record Holder: Will Barr's Path to Penn State

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By Kyle Lucas, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As redshirt junior Will Bar stepped into the thrower's circle he didn't know he was about to make history. He readied himself as he stood facing away from the landing area, and then lifted the 35-pound weight over his head to gain momentum before transitioning into his spin. And then let go.

8578191.jpegHis toss of 67-11.75 had just shattered Penn State's weight throw record. The previous record of 67-3.50 barely had any time to breathe. It had just been set two weeks prior at the Penn State National. The Previous record holder? Will Barr.

Barr came to Penn State as a barely-recruited and undersized, weighing around 210 pounds, walk-on in 2009. The interest he did receive came from schools in the Mid American Conference looking to add Barr as an outside linebacker or defensive end to their programs.

Barr grew up in Urbana, a small town in Ohio. He was a huge Big Ten fan growing up, and rightfully so, living just an hour west of Columbus, home of the Buckeyes. If he was going to compete at the next level he didn't want to settle for a MAC school.

"If I wanted to do a college sport I wanted to do something at the top of it," Barr said referring to the level of competition. "I think that is why I choose track and stuck with that."

Barr caught the eyes of T.J. Crater, Penn State's former throws coach, coming out of high school. Crater who developed two-time NCAA All-American Blake Eaton and two-time NCAA Indoor Championships bronze medalist Joe Kovacs, could sense Barr's potential.

Barr took a redshirt his first season to adjust to the jump in weights from high school to college and to learn from Eaton and Kovacs. He also needed to develop a techniques for the weigh toss and hammer throw, events that aren't offered in many high schools.

"I wasn't very familiar with it," said Barr about the hammer throw. "I had only seen a couple of videos of it on You Tube. I felt comfortable with it and i think I picked it up pretty fast. I wasn't that fond of the weight throw because it's really heavy."

Compared to the weight toss, the hammer throw is much lighter weighting 16 pounds and attached to a 3-11.75 rope.

Barr needed to add weight to his frame as well. He worked closely with the team's strength and conditioning coach, Cam Davidson, to build his strength and diet plan. To put on the weight he needed, he had to eat several meals a day, often eating before and after lifts, class and before bed.

"The last meal of the day is always the toughest, trying to get in a whole full-size dinner in right before you go to sleep," said Barr. "There were a couple of times I'd throw up right before I got to sleep just because it was too much food."

But it paid off in the end. During the outdoor season Barr qualified for the NCAA Championships in the discus in 2012 and was named an Honorable Mention All-American. His efforts outdoors led to a scholarship.

"This is a young man that came in as a walk on from Ohio," said head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan. "He earned his way onto the travel squad, the Big Ten squad and into a scholarship position for us."

His success has carried over to weight toss during the indoor season. However, while as successful as Barr has been in the event. He admits it's still not his favorite.

"I like the outdoor events better," said Barr. "Weight is still my least favorite event, but right now it is my most successful. I'll live with it."

Barr is good position to continue his success. He is currently ranked 10th in the nation in an event that only takes the top 16 to nationals.

"The fact that I'm sitting in a pretty good position to qualify definitely gets me excited for this, right now," said Barr. "I didn't know I was going to be at this point. The way things are shaping out I think I can throw a little bit further and really ice that spot." 

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