|Matt Kelley, Eddie Rodriguez
Four minutes and 10.7 seconds. That’s probably the time it took for the average student in high school to run half a mile. But for RIT’s Michael Hardbarger, a fourth year Mechanical Engineering major, that’s time enough to finish the whole thing.
His spectacular time was recorded February 7 at the Syracuse Invitational. His time of 4:10:70 beat the previous record at RIT by more than three seconds. Times are not Hardbarger’s biggest concern, though, and that race didn’t leave him completely satisfied. “It’s not always a time goal, but you always want to beat everyone on the line against you,” he explained, suggesting that, even though he blasted his way into national championship qualifying and set the school record, he still did not manage to snag the first place ribbon.
When I asked about his goal for the National Championship meet, his response was in the same vein: He wants to win. He has no time goal for the meet aside from whatever it would take for him to be the very first to cross that finish line. It’s an achievable goal this year, as Hardbarger speculates that the top runners in the country are running at about a 4:09 or 4:10 pace. As his most recent run lands him in that category, Hardbarger has made his statement of intent very clear.
It isn’t a new experience for Hardbarger to do well and break records. The mile-record that he broke, 4:13:88, was his own, from last year. In fact, last year he went to the national meet in both outdoor and indoor track. In indoor, he was there running the mile-leg of a distance relay, and for outdoors he was competing alone in the 1,500 meter run. His time in the 1,500 garnered him the fifth spot in the nation, earned him the All-American label and would equate to a 4:07 mile time. Interestingly, that’s the time Hardbarger predicts would be able to win the National meet for indoor this year.
Even so, Hardbarger’s worth to his team is not just a pair of legs and a low number on the clock. Being such a successful runner in his final year, it’s natural for less experienced runners to try and follow his example. He’s aware of the scrutiny he receives from his younger teammates. “Everything from racing to doing your stretches and warm-ups before runs… You’ve just got to bring a positive attitude to it and hope that it spreads to everyone else.”
The team is following his success. They finished second in the Empire 8 championship meet in a heartbreaking one-point loss to Ithaca. They are looking to win at the State Championship and pay back Ithaca. Another strong contender at that meet will be St. Lawrence, according to Harbarger.
This season has been a great final indoor season thus far for Michael Hardbarger. But with his competitiveness, so much of his personal satisfaction with it will hinge upon his performance at the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Championships in mid-March. Hopefully he’ll be reaping the benefits of his great season — and career — here at RIT.