Originally from Florida, Tech track and field star Avery Bartlett had always leaned on sports his whole life as an outlet for his immense energy. But it was not until high school that he began to run track. In fact, the reason he began his career as a runner was to prepare for the upcoming season in soccer. “After starting cross country, I quickly realized I would be a whole lot better at running than soccer, and so I began to stick with it,” Avery said.
At Tech, Avery has been a prolific runner and holds multiple school records. However, balancing the amount of training needed to excel at that level while maintaining grades at Tech is no easy feat. When asked about the most important aspects of being a student-athlete, he explains that “[you have to] practice a lot, you have to eat well, and you have to get nine hours of sleep; that’s the tricky part.” On top of his schoolwork and training regime, he also works part-time at Home Depot’s Orange Works lab, so sticking to a strict schedule is absolutely key. After all, unlike football, basketball and baseball players, there is no professional career awaiting a track star — unless his name is Usain Bolt. Bartlett’s schoolwork is more than just a requirement to maintain NCAA eligibility; his software engineering internship could parlay into a job.
Reminiscing on his time at Tech, Bartlett recalls two moments that stand out as his fondest memories. The first was during his sophomore year at the ACC Finals. “It was an absolutely loaded field, and at the time, I wasn’t expecting to contend for a title. I kind of just went for it, but I ended up getting a huge breakthrough race. Going in, my best time for the 800-meter was a 1:49, but I ended up running a 1:47.3, which was a school record,” Avery recounts. In that moment, his future as one of the program’s best competitors was clear. Bartlett made clear that he was the sort of runner who not only deserved a full athletic scholarship to a Division I school but would also represent his school well.
The second was this past outdoor season during the Florida Relays where the top 800 runners nationwide come to race. “I’m from Florida, so growing up, I’d see some of these people come out to race and set Olympic standards. But I actually ended up winning that race, beating Isaiah Harris who would later be the national champion,” Avery explained. He was able to go full circle from watching the race as a kid to winning it.
Coming into this season as a senior, Bartlett is focused on maintaining the right mental state to compete. His primary goal this year is to place top eight in nationals to make first-team All American, having previously finished only as high as ninth. To get there, he says he has to take more risks. “This season,” he says, “I’m trying to just go for it a little more … take a little more risks, push myself in training just a little harder, because there is a risk in training too hard.” After the ACC Championship this week, Avery will have two weeks to prepare for nationals and take on his goal of making first-team All American.
Given that it is his final season at Tech, being a senior has allowed Bartlett to take on a leadership role within the team. Looking back on the season, he says he is proud of how well his teammates have done, especially the freshmen and sophomores, and he is thrilled that fellow teammate Nahom Solomon, who broke the school record in the 5K race, will be attending nationals this year. When asked about his leadership role on the team, Avery remarked, “I’ve been putting in an effort to be a leader by example, not just telling the younger guys [what to do] because that’s not really me. I have noticed that me and the other seniors have set an example to go into recovery after practices. More freshman than usual are doing it this year which is awesome.”
Through his four years at Tech, Avery’s perspective of cross country has shifted. “Now that I’m older, I’m way more thankful for the opportunities that I’ve had. I understand the competitions part of it, but now I’m more invested in the camaraderie aspect of it and just being the best teammate I can be,” Avery explains. He has been able to mature into a leader for the team and inspire the younger runners to keep the program running smoothly.
Looking ahead, Bartlett plans on continuing his training in anticipation of the Olympic trials next semester, but beyond that is a bit cloudier; he says he will be evaluating his future plans afterwards.
Still, the future looks bright for one of Tech’s most decorated track athletes.