By: Connor Lenahan
Tessa Barrett won the last two Pennsylvania state titles in the 3,000 meter run. A few weeks ago, she reset her own record, 9:36.45, en route to the championship. Tessa Barrett was named the Gatorade Girls State Cross Country Runner of the Year for Pennsylvania in January. Tessa Barrett won the Foot Locker National Cross Country championship in late 2013. Today, she added the New Balance National Championship while resetting the national high school record in the 5,000 meter, running a 16:11.85.
I’ve had the honor of meeting some incredible athletes in my time, but Tessa is something different. I’ve known her for as long as I can remember. Tessa is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. This is funny, as she is also the most ruthlessly dominant athlete I’ve ever held a conversation with.
There are those who defeat their competition, and those that obliterate their competition. Tessa falls in the latter category. She devours state records with the same tenacity that I devour Twinkies. Look at the little bio I have compiled above. That is far from comprehensive, which makes it all the more terrifying. Tessa is now twice over a national champion and she has yet to graduate high school. Calling this feat “impressive” is almost insulting. Tessa is operating in another stratosphere. She is, for lack of a better term, a legend.
My friend and neighbor Mike Ward runs track for Boston University. One night I jokingly asked him if he had ever heard of Tessa. He immediately responded with her Foot Locker National Title. When I told him that I live only steps away from her, he was floored. I texted him today upon hearing about the newly set national record and Mike had already heard the news. Tessa has fame that stretches beyond our mutual hometown of Waverly, PA, and around the country.
It’s general human nature to wish for good things to happen to good people, great things to great people, and so on. In Tessa’s case, incredible things have happened to an incredible person. There is always a soft spot in my heart for anyone that has to fight through adversity. There’s nothing I like to see more than someone not allow said adversity to stop them, but in fact excel in spite of challenges. Tessa, who suffers from migraine headaches that can and have led to seizures, has made her challenge a footnote in her biography. This isn’t her story. Her story is her performance in races. Her story is that she stands today as one of the best runners in the country.
That’s what makes me so happy. I have spent over a decade sharing the small neighborhood with the Barrett family. I, nor do anyone I know, have a bad thing to say about them, especially Tessa. She’s extremely intelligent, extremely sweet, and a joy to be around. I have never left a conversation with her not smiling. There are very few people I can say that about. It’s because of this that I am so happy for all of her success the past few years. I, like many, will be following her career as she heads to Penn State this fall. I’m equally as confident that in a few years I will see her lining up at the Olympics that I am that the sun will rise tomorrow. Everything up to this point has led me to believe this is a matter of “when” not “if.” You would be hard pressed to find a more deserving individual too.
Yet that’s in the future. We’ll get there. For now, let’s salute the living legend that is Tessa Barrett. Congratulations on the national record today and on an (ongoing) incredible high school career that will stand the test of time.
Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is a freshman at Boston University, majoring in journalism. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org