Sharrika Barnett was close to quitting track before coming to the United States.
Barnett, a sophomore sprinter at UF, said when she ran track in her home country of Jamaica, she wasn’t having a lot of success.
“I was like, ‘maybe this is not for me,’” she said.
She added that she was happy there, but all the hours she put in at her high school were too much.
Then she moved to Orlando in 2011, and something changed.
While attending Oak Ridge High School, she started working with her coach to find success — and she did.
Barnett boasted many accomplishments early in her high school career, but as a senior in 2015, her success skyrocketed.
She won the 400-meter titles at the 2015 FHSAA Class 4A Outdoor Finals and the 2015 New Balance Nationals Outdoor 400-meters with a time of 52.25 — a career best — in the latter.
She finished her season with over 15 individual victories. She was also a part of three first-place relay teams.
Her winning senior season helped her earn the 2015 Orlando Sentinel Girls Track Athlete of the Year and an opportunity to run at the next level.
“I had offers from pretty much everywhere,” she said, but she wanted to stay in the state because she didn’t want to go too far away from her mother. She said Florida’s 400-meter program helped her decide to make the move to Gainesville.
Barnett made an immediate impact at UF during her freshman season. She ran on UF’s SEC Outdoor Championship-winning 4x400 relay team, and she helped the same 4x400 team to a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
For her efforts, she was awarded All-SEC Outdoor First Team honors and was a USTFCCCA Indoor and Outdoor All-American in the 4x400 relay.
Barnett credits her newly found focus and dedication to the sport to her coaches and teammates at UF.
As for the transition from Year 1 to Year 2, she said she feels like there are steps she can take to improve in her craft, but it all starts mentally rather than physically.
“I think I can improve more by just being positive, thinking positive, and just doing what coach Holloway says,” Barnett said.
Barnett did not take much time to find herself at the top in her sophomore season. In her second meet this season at the Hokie Invitational on Jan. 21, she won the women’s 400-meter finals and also placed first alongside her relay team in the women’s 4x400 final.
Placements aren’t everything to her, though. Yes, Barnett said her confidence builds when she comes in first place — it helps her to know what she’s capable of. However, she’s more focused on her quickness and the quality of the race.
“I just want my times to drop,” she said. “I’d rather be in a more competitive race than be in a slow heat.”
The Florida track and field team will compete at the Razorback Invitational this weekend.
Barnett will be competing in women’s 400-meters and as a part of the 4x400 relay team. And she said her time is “OK” for now, but she’s looking to drop it to the low 52s or high 51s before the season is over.
That is just one of many goals she has for the rest of the season.
“I just want to be healthy, hit my times that I want to hit,” said Barnett. “For the team, I want us to win championships, bond together as a team, and just be happy to run track.”
UF sprinter Sharrika Barnett sprints at the Hokie Invitational on Jan. 21, 2017, in Blacksburg, Virgina.