Local all-star breaks barriers for girls

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BRATTLEBORO — Barb Barrett's career athletic achievements are both prodigious and staggering. As a youngster growing up in Brattleboro she was influenced by and developed into an amazing local athlete.

As a youth, Barb spent every waking hour outside playing games: basketball, wiffle ball and many others. Barb says, "We played ball all day long!"

Barb participated in the Pepsi Hotshot contest put on by the Brattleboro Recreation and Parks Department when she was 12, won the local competition and traveled to Roxbury, Mass. for the next level. She won that event and was invited to the Boston Garden for the New England Championship. Her competition was on the parquet floor prior to the Boston Celtics/Houston Rockets game. She was behind going into the final round that was to be held at halftime in front of the Boston Garden crowd. Barb made her first 6 shots, was mistakenly awarded second place until officials realized they had made an error. Barb Barrett had won the New England Championship!

At Brattleboro Union High School she was the field hockey team captain; scored 19 goals during the 1983 season, a record that stood for 20 years; and was chosen for the All-State Field Hockey team in 1983.

As a basketball player Barb was a three-year letter winner; team captain; Most Valuable Player in 1982 and 1984; a member of the first and only state championship basketball team in 1984; the first female 1,000 point scorer in BUHS history who amassed a career total of 1,035 points. She started in 65 consecutive games, a team record over three years of 61-7. Barb was chosen a Carnation Prep All-American in 1984, was honorable mention as a Converse All-American in 1984 and was selected to the Vermont Alhambra Basketball Classic scoring 22 points, and was named the Vermont MVP.

Barb finished her athletic years with the sport of softball. She was a four year letter winner; team captain her senior year as well as the MVP. She led the Colonels to a state championship in 1983, struck out once in four years, led the team in batting average and steals, and the Colonels amassed a four-year record of 59-11.

Barb entered Assumption College in Worcester, Mass. at the conclusion of her BUHS career. She excelled becoming an outstanding two-sport performer and captain. She was Assumption's first female basketball player to score 300 points in a season three times; finished her career averaging 15.1 points and leading the Northeast 10 Conference in three-point accuracy (.488). She was the second leading scorer in school history, scored 1,142 points, 241 assists, 173 steals.

As a softball player, Barb was a four-time first-team All-Star shortstop and the first softball player with 200 hits in Division II history. She was a two-time Northeast 10 Player of the Year and the Most Valuable Player in Softball for all four years and in basketball during the 1987-88 season. She batted .505 as a freshman to co-lead the nation in Division II. She also set the New England standard for hits in a season (73) in 1987 and the then New England (and possible national record for hits in a career, 213). She also left with New England marks for runs batted in (108), batting average (.454) and runs scored (109).

Barb entered the Assumption College Hall of Fame in October of 1996.

According to Jenny Backus, BUHS Class of 1986, "Barb Barrett was a huge role model for girls who loved to play sports at BUHS in the 1980s and remains an inspiring leader, coach and mentor for women athletes across Southern Vermont to this day. Before Title 9 was even a twinkle in the eye of the sports community, Barb Barrett was breaking barriers and raising the profile of girls and women in sports in Brattleboro and across Vermont. Nearly every BUHS team she played on went to the state championships thanks to Barb, bringing home two titles for the Colonels and she inspired hundreds of girls like me across Vermont to play sports hard and to play to win."

Backus continued, "I remember her helping me in 9th grade try and learn how to hit and pitch as a lefty. She was patient and a great teacher but she also set really high standards for people who played on teams with her and drove us to be better. These are traits she retains today and I am so delighted she has dedicated her career and life to teaching others and leading educational organizations."

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Barb played tough, played smart. She embodied the key concepts of competitive sports. She made everyone better and was a true team leader - not just a superstar. Barb made everyone she played with better.

Ed Pagano, who held scoring records at Carlyle High School in Concord, Mass., and is a former member of the UVM Basketball team from 1980 to 1984, and a current UVM board member and former chief of staff for US Sen. Patrick Leahy added, "She is an incredible example of a true Vermont sports hero and is a wonderful ambassador for women's athletics in Vermont."

According to Pagano, "I have a soft spot for scoring machines like Barb, who not only scored 1,000 points in high school, but turned around and scored 1,000 points in college as well. Yet what is so incredible about Barb was that she was so good in all the sports she played. When they inducted her into the Assumption College Athletic Hall of Fame, they said Barb was one of the outstanding two sport performers and captains in the Assumption's history."

"Barbie was a terrific athlete," said Rita Castagna, basketball coach from 1984-87. "Many athletes can play more than one sport, but few excel in both. She was a fine basketball player - afterall, she scored over 1,000 points - and one of the premier softball players in Northeast 10 and New England history."

Barb continued to perform after her college career. She played on several modified fast pitch teams that went to the national tournaments. In 1989, she played for Kulick's Market with former BUHS softball coach Mary Beth Birsky and won the national championship. She was selected as the MVP of the tournament, first team All-American, and had the highest batting average of the tournament.

Today Barb Barrett works at the Brattleboro Retreat as the director of education for the Meadows Educational Center, a K-12 alternative school. This job draws from all of her educational background and experience as an accountant, finance director for the town of Brattleboro, business educator at the Windham Regional Career Center, special educator at Brattleboro Union High School and elementary/middle school schools, and principal at Readsboro Central School. Says Barb, "All of those experiences, as well as the leadership skills developed through athletics, has made me the person I am today."

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