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February 2, 2005

ALL-AMERICAN MECHELLE BARNWELL SPURS CCNY WOMEN’S TRACK TEAM

New York, February 2, 2005 - From her high school days at Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights HS, Mechelle Barnwell, quick and lithe, was adept at stealing bases.  She was so good that she was named MVP on the softball team for three years running. 

“It was easy,” shrugs Barnwell, City College’s new track star who ran the fastest 55m dash (7.17 seconds) in the country this season and set a new CCNY record at the Wesleyan Cardinal Invitational on January 29. “Every time I stole a base the umpire would say I’m in the wrong sport.”

Track coaches at Lehman College, where the Guyanese immigrant and Brooklyn resident began her freshman year in 2003 thought so, too.  Talked into racing, Barnwell proved a phenom on the track, winning All-American honors as a rookie.

In her first major meet, she set a new CUNY indoor record in the 400m (56.25 secs). That qualified her for the 2003 NCAA Championships in Indiana where she finished third in the 400m final and anchored Lehman’s 4x400m women’s team to second place.

After sitting out 2004, Barnwell returned to action in the Yale Invitational last month, the star of a young and talented team assembled by coach Lyndon George to restore CCNY’s standing as a power in Division III women’s track and field. 

She announced her return emphatically, dusting the competition in the 400m final with a 57.61 second winning run that booked her a berth in next month’s NCAA Indoor Championships at Illinois Wesleyan University. The performance also earned her CUNY Women’s Track Athlete of the Week accolades.       

The education major is raring to go as she embarks on the twin quests of breaking more records and catching the eye of Guyanese selectors ahead of the 2008 Olympics in China.

“It’s a different challenge coming to City College, a school that has had a lot of success in women’s track and field events in the past,” said Barnwell, a naturally gifted athlete who also won MVP honors in swimming at Prospect Heights.

“But I’m up to it and looking forward to setting new records,” she added. “My ultimate goal is to run for Guyana in the Olympics.”

Coach George, who was hired by CCNY last year after helping lift the Lehman College program, calls Barnwell a “really special talent.”

“Mechelle was an All-American in her first year. She has the potential to go to the highest level and is also a good student,” he added.

Said Robert Coleman, CCNY’s Athletic Director: “Mechelle is truly a gifted student-athlete and we’re really excited about her chances at the NCAA Championships.”

George has high hopes for two other recruits: sprinter-long jumper Andrea Gayle and sprinter Jody Ann Raymond, a freshman transfer from the University of Iowa.

Gayle made a memorable CCNY debut at the recent Yale Invitational. Her long jump effort of 5.15 meters qualified her for the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships to be held at upstate St. Lawrence University next month.

Named CUNY Women’s Field Athlete of the Week for her exploits in the Yale Invitational, the freshman from the Bronx is a speed merchant as well. 

“Andrea was one of the best high school sprinters in New York City,” George said of the Walton HS graduate.

The coach, a 1988 Syracuse alum who represented his native St. Lucia in the 1987 world athletic championships and later competed for Canada, outlined his CCNY mission.

“City College has a great tradition and has been renowned for producing great scholar-athletes. What (assistant coach) Kirk Roberts and I want to do is bring back some of the success and excitement to the program,” said George.

The coach has already earned kudos for his work at CCNY. “I am really excited about the job Lyndon has done to date,” said Coleman. “In one year he has put together a really competitive men’s and women’s program.” 

In the 1990s, CCNY ranked among the top Division III schools in women’s track and field. A crowning moment for the College was the victory by its last four All-Americans before Barnwell; Keisha Latty, Susan Claytor, Robyn McCarthy and Olympian Jacquline Hunter, in the 4x400m relay at the 1997 NCAA Indoor Championships at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.          

The quartet also dominated the 4x400 relay in the Collegiate Track Conference (CTC) section at the famous Penn Relays for two years, placing first in 1996 and 1997.  

Led by the fleet-footed Hunter, a member of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ 1996 Olympic squad in Atlanta, City College won the CUNY Women’s Championships every year of her eligibility from 1993 to 1997.

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