Followers of central Ohio track and field might have missed out the last few years had Aaliyah Barnes stuck by her first impression of the sport.

The 2013 Eastmoor Academy graduate, who had a career full of accolades at the prep level as well as over the last four years competing for the Ohio State women's team, got introduced to running when she was in elementary school.

If she would have been forced to choose a future athletic endeavor at that time, she likely would have selected a path more centered on dribbling a basketball than sprinting around a track.

"I absolutely hated running," Barnes said. "My biological father played basketball so I gave it a try, but it seemed like every time I played I would break my hand. It seemed like I was pretty decent at this running thing so I started doing it more."

The results of that choice have spoken for themselves.

On June 10, Barnes capped her career with the Buckeyes by helping the 1,600-meter relay place eighth (3 minutes, 31.36 seconds) in the NCAA Division I outdoor national championships in Eugene, Oregon.

She was joined in the event by three former central Ohio standouts: juniors Maggie Barrie (Worthington Kilbourne) and Beatrice Hannan (Dublin Coffman) and sophomore Karrington Winters (New Albany).

On June 8, the relay ran 3:29.97 to finish fourth in the first of three heats. No other team in the other two heats ran faster and the Buckeyes advanced to the final.

The relay earned first-team All-America honors and was Ohio State's first women's 1,600 relay to advance to the final since 2008 when another Eastmoor graduate, Ayrizanna Favours, ran in the event.

Previously during her college career, Barnes earned first-team All-America honors on the 400 relay in 2014 and second-team All-America on the 400 relay in 2015 and on the 1,600 relay in 2016.

She also was a three-time honorable mention all-American, achieving that feat in the 400 in both 2014 and 2015 as well as with the 1,600 relay in 2015.

Barnes was named the ThisWeek girls track Athlete of the Year in 2013 for Eastmoor but wasn't sure whether the success she'd been having would continue at the college level.

"It's gone probably better than what I expected," she said. "I knew I was pretty decent in high school, but I didn't know I could be a Big Ten champion and be in the nationals every year."

Barnes won seven state titles for Eastmoor, including capturing the 100 (11.9) and running on the first-place 800 relay (1:40.38) as a senior in 2013 as the Warriors won the Division II team title. She also helped Eastmoor earn a state runner-up finish in 2012.

Mark Anthony, who is Eastmoor's girls coach and served as an assistant when Barnes was in high school, knew Barnes was a gifted runner well before she became a prep standout.

"I had her in Junior Olympics with the Capital City Comets," Anthony said. "We loved having her. She'll tell you I had her do some unconventional things like having her run with a tennis ball under her chin. Her work ethic was outstanding."

On May 14 at Penn State, Barnes, Barrie, Hannan and Winters ran on the 1,600 relay that won the Big Ten championship in 3:32.76. Barnes also took third in both the 100 (11.46) and 200 (22.99).

In 2015, Barnes ran on the 1,600 relay that won the Big Ten indoor and outdoor titles.

She didn't train all of last summer as she recovered from a muscle tear but began to hit her stride again in April.

"I got injured and had to sit out for six months, but I started to run better (during the outdoor season)," Barnes said. "It's been hard, but it's been good."

Barnes, who graduated in May with a degree in criminology and criminal justice, was named the recipient of Ohio State's inaugural Miechelle Willis Academic Achievement Award in February.

The award was named after Ohio State's deputy director of athletics, Miechelle Willis, who has worked at the university for more than 20 years.

"I know she's done very well at Ohio State, and she's also an outstanding student," Anthony said. "She's always had a great support system."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek