Local Lawyer Sets US Record in High Jump

At 55, Bruce McBarnette is still one of the best high jumpers in the country.

By: Melissa Romero

Bruce McBarnette is no longer a lithe, Division I college athlete. Nor is he an Olympic track star. But he is US record holder.

McBarnette, 55, of Loudoun County, recently set the US record in the indoor high jump for men over 55 years of age at the ITS Open Indoor Track and Field Meet in Alexandria. He surpassed the previous record by one centimeter with a leap of 5 feet, 10 inches. His personal best jump is 7 feet, 1 inch.

McBarnette competes in the USA Track and Field’s masters program, which is divided into five-year age divisions. Masters athletes range from 30 to 100 years old.

The attorney by day took some time out of his busy schedule of running a real estate investment firm and training six times a week to tell us what it’s like being able to jump new heights at 55.

Congratulations on your win and record! How long did the previous high jump record hold?
Thank you. It was held by former Olympian Jim Barrineau for approximately nine months.

Any track-and-field athlete knows mentality is just as important as physicality. What went through your mind before clearing the record height?
I focused on thinking about my steps, making sure I have my choreography down and that I have the speed to make the clearance. I have to remember to work on harnessing my energy to create one explosive motion at the end. And then I just pray for a great performance.

You’re 55. Why keep high jumping and competing?
I believe in staying in shape, and I find that I work better if I’m in shape. When I was in school, I often performed better academically when I was in shape. If you’re going to work out on a regular basis, you might as well take it to the next level and compete.

Speaking of working out, can you share your training regimen?
I train six times a week, sometimes in the morning, but most often in the evening by myself. I do a lot of bounding exercises, weight lifting, and stretching. In addition, I always do some distance training—just a couple of miles—to warm up before I do more strenuous, explosive training. I also do a lot of sprinting.

What is your diet like?
Since I’m training all the time, I always eat a lot of organic vegetables and fruits. I avoid caffeine and carbonated beverages. Of course, I don’t drink alcohol, and I also avoid salt and sugar as much as possible.

What’s your favorite pre-meet meal?
I actually eat very little prior to my performance. I may have a couple of eggs and toast or a peanut butter sandwich. But mostly I try to stay well hydrated. [The day of] the first USA National Championship I won, I only drank beet juice.

You were a high jumper at Princeton University in the 1980s. Do you feel like you’ve become a better jumper since then?
I’m better in terms of technique, but not in terms of athletic ability. The nice thing about high jump is that it’s about pursuing perfection. You may have a perfect jump here and there, but you won’t be perfect during every jump in one competition. It’s like breaking a national record with no misses.

Do you have any plans to hang up your shoes?
There’s no reason not to keep going, so I have no plans to retire. Once I turn 60, it will be an opportunity to break even more records.