Player Spotlight - Alec Barton
Player Spotlight - Alec Barton
In the torrid start that the Saint Mary’s Gaels have enjoyed this winter so far, the back row has been at the center of everything.
You know the names, right? Vili Helu, Kevin O’Connor and … the other guy. That other guy would be Alec Barton. The least well-known of the Gaels back row, Barton may well be playing the best of all of them. Barton normally suits up in the #7 jersey, but he’s a tall, rangy player with power, and so often moves up to the second row in the second half.
“It’s been pretty interesting this year,” said Barton. “My role has changed a lot since freshman year. I’ve been starting a lot at #7 and usually we bring in another loose forward at halftime - Marcus Viscardi is an absolute animal with a knack for finding the ball. He goes in at loose forward and I go to lock. It’s been fun. I am getting to understand the field from a different position, and it’s got me paying attention to aspects of the game I didn’t pay attention to before.”
Always trying to learn, Barton has, said Head Coach Tim O’Brien, broken out this year as a player who can do it all.
For Barton, the focus, though, has been more on the team.
“It’s been pretty good so far to see how we’ve developed from fall to this point,” he said. “We’ve been dealing with a lot of different skill levels in our opponents - out of the college teams we’ve played so far Utah posed the biggest threat. We have a lot of experienced players, guys with good rugby sense, and we’ve been working on our defense and getting good line speed and good shape. Going forward there are a lot of good teams on our schedule and when we play BYU, Cal, Life, we want to come into the game knowing exactly what we can do to control the game.”
Of late, controlling the game means avoiding penalty trouble and avoiding silly turnovers. Against UCSB, despite winning by a huge score, the Gaels kept getting into penalty trouble. Barton said some penalties are inevitable - the forwards, especially, try to test the ref early to see what he will or will not call.
“Every ref is different and we want to give ourselves three penalties, by which time we should be able to recognize how he’s going to ref us,” said Barton. But against UCSB they failed to adjust. Going forward, that’s something they have to take care of.
Barton is a product of the Cathedral Catholic and San Diego Mustangs teams in Southern California. One of his coaches, Ramon Samaniego, is the twin brother of former Saint Mary’s coach Tony Samaniego. That connection got Barton to consider Saint Mary’s, and while he said academics were very important in his college decision-making, so was rugby.
“I liked the potential of the Saint Mary’s program and that it would help me educationally and professionally,” explained Barton. “Our Head Coach, Tim O’Brien, is looking for guys who are good guys. He wants guys who are coachable and those guys are good teammates. That’s what I wanted and why I came here.”
Winning is good, too, and Barton has been a part of a Saint Mary’s program that has won two national DIA titles.
“We always have our eyes set on the national championship,” said the flanker. “We want nothing less. There might be bumps in the road, but there’s nothing better than beating the best teams.”