For most collegiate athletes their sporting careers end the day they collect their undergraduate diplomas. If that were the case in collegiate cycling, however, then Mike Barton Th’04 wouldn’t have been able to win two national championships for Dartmouth at this year’s National Collegiate Cycling Association Championships. Barton won both the criterium and road race events at the May NCCA championships in Madison, Wisconsin.
Sports governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) allow athletes five years in which to complete four years of eligibility, but since collegiate cycling operates outside the NCAA umbrella no such eligibility rules apply. As long as you’re enrolled in a college or university, no matter your status, you can race. Having raced as an undergrad at the University of New Hampshire, Barton enrolled in Thayer School’s M.E.M. program in the fall of 2003 knowing cycling would remain part of the academic experience. And racing and training while in grad school turned into an altogether better experience than his undergrad racing.
“Racing as an undergrad was way harder because you were forced to do five classes or more each term and you had really short timelines,” says Barton, “As a grad student you have bigger objectives and longer timelines so you can make your own schedule. You don’t have as many quizzes and exams to get in the way, so I actually had more time [to train] as a grad student.”
Barton took a circuitous route to college in the first place, not starting UNH until he was 25. By the time he enrolled for his first semester in Durham he’d already packed a lifetime’s worth of excitement into his early-20s, and cycling was just the next step.
“I raced stock cars for six years semi-professionally, local speed tracks and the Star Speedway in Epping,” explains Barton, a Grantham, New Hampshire, native. “It got to the point where the best driver wasn’t always the guy who was winning the races, it was the people who had the most money in their car. That’s why I like cycling so much: Equipment matters to a point, but you really have to bring your own motor.”
Barton credits his friendship with a former Dartmouth rower, Mark Nathe, with jumpstarting his training and allowing him to improve his cycling while in Hanover. On top of his two national titles, Barton also won the East Coast collegiate series, at one point reeling off five race wins in a row. While maintaining his research studying heat transfer of the cornea of the eye, Barton still managed to train upwards of 15 hours a week starting in January.
“I bobbled along for the first three or four years and I never trained in the winter, I’d only start training the first week of racing in the spring. The year before last I started training in the winter with a friend of mine and he was a former crew guy so he’s basically a training lunatic. We trained every night, all winter. I won a bunch of collegiate races that summer and saw the benefits of the winter labor and last winter I trained even more.”
Barton faces a new race for time. Now an engineer at Creare in Hanover, he says, “It’s tough to balance a full-time career and cycling at the elite level.”
— Chris Milliman
On the Right Track
Two Dartmouth track and field stars, B.E. candidates Mustafa Abdur-Rahim ’04 and Sean Furey ’04, competed in the U.S. Olympics Trials in July. And though they didn’t make it to Athens, they racked up competitive points and experience.
“I felt like a superhero — I felt like an animal,” says Abdur-Rahim ’04, a three time All-American decathlete, of his shot-put attempt.
“Track is the purest sport in the world,” he says. “You don’t need teams or officials to make calls. You just get out there and be an animal.”
His strategy served him well at the trials, where he finished sixth out of 25 competitors. With 7,844 points, he had the highest collegiate finish at the event.
All-American javelin thrower Sean Furey ’04 placed 16th overall, with a throw of 221 feet, 5 inches. “I’ve always wanted to compete at the highest level,” says Furey. “A lot of people throwing the javelin are bigger, stronger, and more technical than me. Those guys are where I want to be soon.”
Furey and Abdur-Rahim, who co-captained Dartmouth’s indoor and outdoor track teams last year, will continue competing for the Big Green while they complete their B.E. degrees. Both are taking aim at a new target as well: the 2008 Olympics.
— Annelise Hansen