Bob Barber placed second in the state of Illinois cross-country championships in 1962 in an age when there was only one class of schools in the entire state. In the spring of ’63 Barber was ranked 8th in the U.S. by Track and Field News for the high school boys three mile run in 15:15 (Jim Ryun was ranked #3 in 14:53).
Bob entered UT in 1963 in Chuck Rohe’s second recruiting class. Freshmen were not eligible in those days, but in Bob’s four year class at UT they won 11 of the 12 SEC team championships in XC, Indoor and Outdoor track. The one they did not win, they did not compete due to a scheduling conflict with the NCAA Championships. Bob was a member of the KTC cross-country team that finished third in the nation at the National USTFF Cross-Country Championships in 1963. He was a member of the UT varsity XC team that won that same National USTFF Cross-Country Championship in 1964. Bob was on the UT team that finished 3rd at the 1965 NCAA Cross-Country Championships, the highest team finish for a UT track or XC team at that point in their history. Bob was a member of the UT track team that swept the SEC indoor and outdoor titles all four years---the UT team finished tied for 5th at the 1967 NCAA Track & Field Championships.
After graduation Barber served in the U.S. Army for two years. He was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” device and two Purple Hearts while serving as an infantryman in Vietnam.
Most of Bob’s professional career was as the Eastern Region Marketing and Sales Manager for Brunswick Billiards. Bob was unable to train properly or compete while working but after retiring at age 58 he went to the Sea Ray Relays, got inspired, lost 20 pounds, and began to training for master’s competition.
Some highlights of Barber’s master’s running career include:
• U.S. Track and Field (USATF) National Masters Indoor Champion, 2006: 1st Place in the mile run and the 3,000M (60-64), Reggie Lewis Center, Boston
• USATF National Masters Outdoor Champion, 2006: 1st Place in the 2,000M steeplechase (American Record) and 2nd Place in the 10k (60-64), Charlotte, NC Barber’s time was the fourth best in the world in 2006
• USATF Masters National 5k Cross-Country Championships, 2006: 1st Place in 18:45 (60-64), Saratoga, NY
• USATF Masters National 8k Cross-Country Championships, 2007: 2nd Place (60-64), Boulder, CO
• USATF Masters National Outdoor Track and Field, 2007: 1st Place in the 2,000M steeplechase and 2nd Place in the 10k (60-64), Orono, ME
• USATF Masters National 8k Cross-Country Championships, 2008: 5th Place (60-64), San Diego, CA
• At the age of 63, Bob ran a 1500M race in 5:00.4, a time which ranked fourth in the U.S. for men aged 60-64 at the end of that year
Bob surrendered to a hip-replacement in 2009. When he retired from his five years of KTC and national competition he held 38 Tennessee single-age state records in distances ranging from the mile to the 30k.
Bob was a KTC board member for over three years, the last 15 months serving as KTC Treasurer. During that time he proposed and directed the KTC gift of installing the quarter-mile markers on all the City of Knoxville and Knox County greenways. Bob and his great volunteer crew accomplished this labor intensive project over a period of about three years, and their effort is appreciated by runners daily as they run the routes, perform their intervals, and total their mileage based on these markers.
In 2008 Bob’s vision of a KTC Hall of Fame came to fruition with the first induction in February 2009. Bob chaired the KTC Hall of Fame Induction Dinners in 2009, 2011, and 2014.
Bob enjoys volunteering for the youth events, serves as a volunteer KTC coach in the Knoxville Youth Runs program at Christenberry Elementary, and is a volunteer official with the KTC/Tennessee Track and Field Officials organization. In 2016 he rejoined the Board of Directors