Mike Barnett is directly connected to some of the most significant firsts of Azusa Pacific's storied track & field program. In 1983 Barnett was a key athlete who led the Cougars to the first of a record-setting 23 NAIA men's track & field championships. Twenty years later, as a head coach, he led Azusa Pacific to its first-ever NAIA women's track & field national championship which opened a run of seven women's national titles over the next decade.
In 2012, as Azusa Pacific transitions into NCAA Division II, Barnett takes the unique step of becoming the program's first-ever director of track & field. In his new position, Barnett becomes responsible for a Cougar track & field program that has claimed 30 NAIA titles, including 13 national championships since he took over the women's track & field program in 2000. His responsibilities include oversight of the track & field budget and scholarships, application of NCAA regulations, and shaping the overall philosophy, vision, and mission of Azusa Pacific track & field. He will also continue to coach the men's and women's throwers of Cougar track & field.
In 13 years at the helm of the Cougar women's track & field program, Barnett quickly built a dynasty, much like the one he started for the Cougar men during his collegiate competitive days. As a coach, Barnett led Azusa Pacific to seven NAIA national championships - four outdoor and three indoor - over the past 10 years. He is the only coach in NAIA history to lead his team to back-to-back sweeps of the indoor and outdoor titles, a feat the Cougars accomplished in 2003 and 2004.
In the midst of guiding Azusa Pacific's women's track & field program to unprecedented heights, Barnett was also a key member of the coaching staff that helped Bryan Clay claim the title of "World's Greatest Athlete" with his gold-medal performance in the decathlon at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Barnett coaches the throws and writes his annual weight program for Clay, who also claimed the silver medal at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.
An even-keeled, good-natured man at heart, Barnett appeals to all types of personalities and is quite popular with his athletes. He is organized and pays attention to detail. And as can be expected by his success, both as an athlete and coach, he is competitive, striving for the best of himself and his athletes.
Not surprisingly, he has been named the NAIA Coach of the Year seven times, including last year after he led his Cougars to the 2012 NAIA indoor national championship.
As his storied international career began to wind down in the late 1990s, Barnett returned to his alma mater in 1999 as a throws coach. After one season as an assistant coach, he became the head coach in 2000. Within two years he had Azusa Pacific post its best-ever showings in women's track & field with a pair of national runner-up finishes at the 2002 NAIA indoor and outdoor track & field championship meets. The following year, in 2003, he became only the sixth coach in NAIA history to lead his squad to a sweep of the NAIA women's indoor and outdoor national championships. In 2004, he became the first coach ever of a team to sweep NAIA indoor and outdoor crowns in successive years as the Cougars ran away from the field to win both national championships.
After registering top-ten finishes at each of the next five national championship meets - three indoor and two outdoor competitions from 2005 to 2007, Barnett and the Cougars returned to the top of the podium with a near-perfect performance to claim the 2007 NAIA outdoor national title. Following a pair of gut-wrenching runner-up finishes to the same school (Wayland Baptist) by identical one-point margins at the indoor championships in back-to-back seasons in 2008 and 2009, Azusa Pacific flipped the script with a one-point win for the 2010 NAIA outdoor crown. Last year, the Cougars claimed the program's seventh NAIA women's national championship by by claiming the NAIA indoor title by the slimmest of margins. Azusa Pacific athletes won six of the eight events in which they competed on the final day to unseat two-time defending indoor champion Oklahoma Baptist by just a half-point: 108 to 107.5. When the Cougars notched a third-place finish at the 2012 NAIA outdoor championship, it ran the program's streak of top-five finishes to 11 consecutive national meets.
While he is an extraordinary throws coach (between the Cougar men and women he has coached 20 All-American throwers), Barnett's success has come from a balanced attack. Overall, he has averaged more than 10 All-American athletes per year during his 13 seasons as head coach of Azusa Pacific's women's track & field program, with at least one Cougar athlete claiming an individual national title in each of his 13 years.
One of the most celebrated athletes in Azusa Pacific history, Barnett was a five-time NAIA champion. He is the first and still the only four-time NAIA javelin champion, winning the event as a 1980 freshman and then following with three straight NAIA-record tosses over the next three years. At the 1983 NAIA championship meet, his final collegiate appearance as a Cougar, he broke his own record with a heave of 259' 11", and combined with his second-place showing in the hammer, he helped lead Azusa Pacific to its first of what would be an unprecedented and unequaled seven straight NAIA outdoor track & field championships.
During that 1983 senior season, Barnett sent notice to the international community that he had Olympic-caliber ability when he recorded the fourth-best javelin throw in U.S. history with a toss of 296' 5" to win the prestigious Mt. SAC Relays title.
Upon completion of his collegiate eligibility, Barnett embarked on an international javelin throwing career that he hoped would lead to the Olympics, particularly the 1984 games which were being held in his Southern California home at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. However, at the 1984 U.S. trials, Barnett finished 10th in the competition. In preparation for the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, Korea, Barnett finished fourth at the Olympic Trials and had to settle for the title of "alternate."
In 1989 Barnett captured his first-ever U.S. javelin championship. He repeated the performance with another national javelin title in 1991. Yet neither crown guaranteed him a spot on the 1992 U.S. Olympic team, a berth he would have to earn on his own. In June of 1992, Barnett ended eight years of frustration and reached the pinnacle of his track & field career, all in one fell swoop, when he garnered a place on the U.S. Olympic team for the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games. He made the most of his lone appearance on the Olympic stage by throwing the javelin 258' 0" to finish seventh, which is still the highest showing by an American javelin thrower over the past 7 Olympic Summer Games.
A seven-time NAIA All-American, Barnett's javelin throwing resume also includes the 1980 Pan-Am and U.S. junior championships. In 1991, he was fourth in the javelin at the World Cup in Barcelona, and he took second at the Pan-Am Games in Cuba. Before his retirement from the sport in 1996, Track & Field News ranked Barnett among the top 10 javelin throwers in the United State for 14 years, ranking him the nation's best in 1989 and again in 1991.
His international competition delayed completion of his academic pursuits but in 1997 Barnett earned his bachelor's degree in physical education from Azusa Pacific. In 2001 he completed work on his master's in education, which he also earned at Azusa Pacific.
Barnett also lettered three seasons on Azusa Pacific's football team (1979-81) and teamed with his older brother, Doug, to spearhead one of the finest Cougar defenses ever during the early 1980s. Doug, who went on to play five seasons in the NFL with the Rams, Redskins and Falcons, also partnered with Mike to form one of college track & field's best-ever brother combinations. Like Mike, Doug was an accomplished thrower and won five NAIA individual titles in the hammer, shot and 35-pound weight throws. In 1982, the Barnett brothers became the first Cougars ever to be nationally-ranked by Track & Field News in their respective events -- Mike in the javelin and Doug in the hammer.
During his many years of competition, Mike supported himself and his family as the sole owner and operator of a wallpaper business. Mike, who teaches in Azusa Pacific's exercise & sport science department, and his wife Julie, also an Azusa Pacific alum, reside in Glendora. Their two children both graduated from Azusa Pacific, with their son Cory (25) earning a degree in communication in 2010 while their daughter Shawna (22) graduated in 2012 with a degree in graphic design.
BARNETT AT AZUSA PACIFIC WOMEN'S HEAD COACH (13 SEASONS) GSAC NAIA NAIA NAIA Individual Year School Finish Indoor Outdoor All-Americans* Champions* 2000 Azusa Pacific 2nd 12th 3rd 9 1 2001 Azusa Pacific 1st 13th 4th 11 1 2002 Azusa Pacific 1st 2nd 2nd 12 3 2003 Azusa Pacific 1st 1st 1st 13 4 2004 Azusa Pacific 1st 1st 1st 13 4 2005 Azusa Pacific 2nd 4th 5th 5 3 2006 Azusa Pacific 1st 6th 2nd 10 2 2007 Azusa Pacific 2nd 9th 1st 12 1 2008 Azusa Pacific 2nd 2nd 4th 11 2 2009 Azusa Pacific 1st 2nd 4th 11 4 2010 Azusa Pacific 1st 4th 1st 10 2 2011 Azusa Pacific 1st 3rd 5th 10 2 2012 Azusa Pacific 1st 1st 3rd 12 5 3-time NAIA Indoor Coach of the Year (2003, 2004, 2012) 4-time NAIA Outdoor Coach of the Year (2003, 2004, 2007, 2010)