Standing near the memorial plaque that honors their father's accomplishments at Columbus Academy, Andrew, David and Jamie Barren can't help but take pride in Mark Barren's many roles at the school.
A 1978 graduate, Mark was a three-sport athlete who went on to become a teacher and administrator. He also served as an assistant and head coach for the football program and later helped form the boys lacrosse program.
His passion for Academy athletics is what has been remembered most since Mark died in June 2011 at age 51 after suffering a heart attack while jogging near his Worthington home. The memorial plaque reads: "By his dedication, enthusiasm, and example, he motived Columbus Academy student-athletes to be the best they could be."
His three sons are proud to carry on their father's legacy.
"Most things I do in life I'm pretty intense about, especially things I'm passionate about like lacrosse and soccer," said David, a senior at Academy. "My competitive spirit translates into the classroom. ... I probably got that from my dad. From what I remember, he was pretty intense. It's really special to have a community like this where everyone knows you and cares about you."
Jamie graduated in 2016 and went on to play lacrosse for nearly two years at Wittenberg. He is hoping to transfer to Ohio State to pursue a degree in strategic communications and has returned to Academy to serve as an assistant boys lacrosse coach at the middle school level, where his father got the program started in 2011.
"The school does a good job when they have a coach or an alumni who has done so much for the school. They make sure everyone remembers them and recognizes what they did and the impact they had," Jamie said.
Andrew is a freshman who competes in tennis and swimming and diving.
"It's fun to see all my brothers do their sports and they succeed so well," Andrew said. "All my friends acknowledge them. It's really cool having older brothers here. ... My dad was a great coach, great teacher and a really passionate guy."
Memories of Mark
When athletics director Dominic Facciolla watches David compete, whether it's in lacrosse, soccer, track and field or swimming and diving, he is reminded of Mark.
After David helped the boys track team's 400-meter relay reach the Division III state meet last season -- it finished third in 43.26 seconds -- he decided to forgo track this spring and return to lacrosse. As an attacker, he had 44 goals and 12 assists to help Academy to a record of 12-3 before playing Granville on May 7.
"It's interesting how genetics work because when you look at David's body type, the way he moves, you see a young version of Mark," Facciolla said. "Mark was a talented athlete in his day and David certainly is. You see a lot of it and when you see him compete. He has the same fire that Mark competed with. David is all-in. He gets after it 100 percent."
David will attend Ohio State to pursue a degree in finance, but will not compete in athletics.
"David's return has been integral to our success this year on offense," lacrosse coach Derek Lichtfuss said. "He leads the team in goals and total points, which accounts for one-quarter of all scoring. David's contribution goes far beyond his point production.
"He leads by example on and off the field, and is constantly pushing his teammates to be better. David's teammates thrive off his play and energy, which has been evident in not only our record, but our overall morale."
His family said Mark took pride in helping to form the lacrosse program, which won a state title at the middle school level in its first season. Jamie was a member of the champion-ship team as a seventh-grader.
"His kids liked lacrosse at a young age and he took it on because he was a dad that loved being around his kids," Facciolla said. "Whatever those kids were interested in, Mark was going to be a part of it."
Mark's widow, Jen Thompson, who remarried in 2017, said she and Mark stressed the importance of a well-rounded lifestyle with their sons. The family has since moved from Worthington to New Albany.
"They talked about sports and school all the time at home," she said. "Academics and athletics were important. Mark taught a full load here. Sports were important."
Thompson, who is a second-grade teacher at Academy, said she met Mark in the early stages of her teaching career.
"We met here and the kids have gone here since pre-kindergarten," she said. "We wanted everybody in the same school for the education and the family. It's a close-knit community. They were going to be brought up in this school. We both supported it and we both believed in education. ... When Mark passed away, everybody was there for us. Everyone looked out for my children and they still do."
'Mark was Columbus Academy'
Mark first attended Academy in 1976 as a junior and competed in football, basketball and track. He earned all-state recognition in football as a senior.
His late father, Dan, joined the football program as an assistant in 1976 and took over as head coach in 1977. Mark's brothers, John (1982) and Brian (1985), also are graduates of Academy.
Mark joined the football program in 1996 as an assistant under Jim Collis and helped the Vikings win the Division V state title in 2003 with a 13-8 victory over Amanda-Clearcreek. He replaced Collis as head coach in 2006, leading the Vikings to postseason berths that season and in 2009.
When Mark died in 2011, Collis returned to guide the team before again stepping down in 2014.
Mark was a math teacher and also served as the boys athletics director before being replaced by Facciolla in 1999, when he became the school's sole AD. Facciolla recalls being warmly greeted by Mark when he got to Academy.
"Mark was Columbus Academy as a coach, as a teacher, as a role model," Facciolla said. "Everybody connected with Mark. ... They knew you were going to have a good conversation, have a laugh and talk sports. He loved it. It was family oriented, that's how Mark was. Mark and Academy and football, it's in the DNA. He loved the athletic program.
"Mark was the first one to welcome me and invite me and my family to his house for a barbecue, and that's how Mark was. He was a good guy and he was showing me the ropes. I'll always remember that."
Facciolla, who is retiring at the end of the school year and will be replaced by Jason Singleton, said a scholarship was started in honor of Mark and his father. It is presented annually to an Academy student-athlete who exemplifies their characteristics, such as a strong work ethic and striving to reach your full potential.
Then there's the memorial plaque, which is affixed to a rock near the football field.
"It's nice when we walk by that rock during games," Jamie said. "It's a nice reminder."
Below are the coming schedules for the Columbus Academy baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, boys tennis and track & field teams:
May 10 -- Home vs. Fredericktown
May 11 -- At Jonathan Alder
May 14 -- Home vs. 18th-seeded Madison Plains in first round of Division III district tournament. The Vikings are seeded 10th.
May 9 -- Home vs. Bexley
May 11 -- Home vs. Bellbrook
May 13 -- Home vs. 15th-seeded Olentangy Berlin in first round of Division II, Region 7 tournament. The Vikings are seeded third.
*May 9 -- Watterson at Otterbein
May 16 -- Home vs. 17th-seeded Centennial in second round of Division II, Region 7 tournament. The Vikings are seeded second.
May 9, 11 -- Division II sectional at home. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district May 16 at home and May 18 at Reynoldsburg.
TRACK & FIELD
May 10 -- MSL-Ohio meet at Whitehall
May 14, 16, 18 -- Division III district meet at Watkins Memorial. The top four finishers in each event advance to regional May 22 and 24 at Fairfield Union.