Dec. 10, 2015
By Adam Van Brimmer | BUZZ Magazine (Winter 2015 edition)
A family legacy can be a powerful influence.
From a young age, parents pass along their loyalties to their children, consciously or not – things like their favorite car brand, cereal flavor, sneaker label or sports team.
Most often, the biggest impact is in college affiliation, especially when multiple generations of the same family attend the same school.
For the Bartletts of Tallahassee, Fla., the Georgia Tech legacy stretches back nearly a century. Yet Avery Bartlett, whose father, mother, grandfather, great-grandfather and two great-uncles all studied on The Flats, felt no pressure to become a Yellow Jacket.
That’s because his elder sister, Samantha, was already at Georgia Tech.
“My dad wanted the tradition to go on, and it had with my sister,” Bartlett said. “I’d always been a big Tech lover, naturally, but that wasn’t what brought me here.”
Bartlett is a Yellow Jacket in large part because the school’s track coaches have built one of the nation’s best middle-distance running programs. And Bartlett was a top recruiting target, even before coach Alan Drosky discovered the family connection.
Bartlett won three individual state titles running for Chiles High School in Tallahassee. He captured the 800-meter title in both his junior and senior years and the 1,600 meters as a senior. He was so highly regarded as a miler, he was one of 14 high school runners nationwide picked to run in the Adidas Dream Mile, an event held in conjunction with a professional event, the Adidas Grand Prix.
“When I found out he was a Tech legacy, I certainly tried to play it to our advantage, but it became obvious that could work against us as easily as it could for us,” Drosky said. “His whole family has gone here, so why not go somewhere else and blaze his own trail? So I had to sell him on the same things we sell everybody else on: the value of the degree, academic opportunities, the city and all the rest.”
Bartlett bought, although only after thoroughly considering Georgetown, Florida and Mississippi. Georgia Tech’s computer science offerings, particularly computational media, and the Yellow Jackets’ 4×800-meter relay victory at the 2015 Penn Relays won his allegiance.
And his family’s belated approval.
“We tried our best to make sure it was Avery’s decision and tried not to influence him,” said Andrew Bartlett, Avery’s father, class of 1991. “But as soon as he decided Georgia Tech was the best fit, all the Yellow Jacket gear came flowing in right away.”
INEXPLICABLE ATHLETIC PROWESS
Nowhere amongst all that memorabilia were any old Yellow Jacket jerseys or other athletic wear. While Bartlett is a Tech legacy, his is not an athletic one.
None of his ancestors competed as Yellow Jackets, and he does not classify his family as particularly athletic. Georgia Tech’s track coaches approached Avery’s grandfather, Woody, about joining the team after watching him run as part of the school’s then mandatory physical training courses, but that’s the extent of the family’s sports prowess, at least until Avery came along.
“We’ve been scratching our heads about his abilities for a long time,” said Woody Bartlett, class of 1961. “There’s nothing more than a glimmer of heritage there in the speed I showed, but even that was unproven.”
The family didn’t push Avery into running either. As a child, Avery “had an overabundance of energy,” his father said. They enrolled him in a soccer league and martial arts classes “so we could tolerate him.” He played every sport offered by his middle school but wasn’t a standout in any one of them. His parents mandated that he play at least one sport in high school, and he picked cross country over soccer purely on the basis of cross country practice starting earlier in the summer than soccer, according to his father.
He’s been hooked since.
“I was a big soccer guy, but I wasn’t ever good enough in soccer to get to the level I am now as a runner,” Avery said. “It was a good choice.”
He’s looking better by the day. Bartlett’s early returns at Georgia Tech show plenty of promise for what’s to come. He ran the fastest time in the history of the track program’s fall aerobic fitness test. The annual event, run under the lights at the George C. Griffin Track since the 1980s, is a three-kilometer run with the first mile run at a set pace.
His time bested the previous record by three seconds, and past winners had included Tech track legends Conrad Nichols, a national champion and seven-time All-American, and David Krummenacker, a two-time national champion and eight-time All-American.
And in October, he won the Berry Invitational, a cross country meet. Bartlett competed as an unattached runner – he’s officially redshirting in cross country this season in order to focus on preparing for the indoor track season – and won the event by nearly two seconds.
“I’m feeling really good about where I’m at considering the change in mileage and intensity,” Bartlett said. “I’m doing about 10 more miles a week now that I was in high school and running at a faster pace. I want to be competitive with everyone on the track come the season’s start.”
And blaze a new trail for the Bartlett family at Georgia Tech.