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Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame
Chautauqua County has produced many fine track and field athletes. Some excelled in jumping events, others in distance races, some in throws, but the fastest sprinter in county history will be a 2023 inductee of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
Bob Barlette set the county mark for the 100-yard dash at 9.6 seconds and the 220-yard dash at 21.3 seconds. He established these marks in 1970 and they have withstood the test of time for more than 50 years.
Barlette was born in Dunkirk in 1951 and has resided there his entire life. He was a three sport letter winner at Dunkirk High School in football, basketball and track and field.
In his senior year at DHS, Barlette carried the pigskin 181 times for 1,198 yards to set a Marauder record. He was the top rusher in Western New York in 1969 earning a selection as First Team All-WNY. He was named to the Second Team All-New York State squad and was also honored as an Honorable Mention High School All-American.
From 1968 to 1970, Barlette was a most outstanding performer for the Maroon and White track program. As a sophomore, he was the Section VI 100-yard champion and qualified for the state meet. In his junior year, Bob ran the fastest times in Western New York in both the 100 and 220-yard sprints, but an injury prevented a return to the state championship meet.
As a senior in 1970, Barlette set the Chautauqua County records in the 100 and the 220-yard dashes. He won both events at the Section VI championships. At the state meet, Bob was scored second by an eyelash in the 100-yard final, as both he and the winner were timed at 9.7 seconds. After falling at the finish line in the 100, Barlette injured his hip and had to withdraw from the 220.
Following his graduation from DHS in 1970, Barlette received a football scholarship to the University at Buffalo. He was the leading rusher on the UB Freshman football that was undefeated in 4 games. He gained 681 yards in 110 carries for a 6.6 yard average. He was honored as the team’s Most Valuable Player. That winter, UB dropped its football program.
Recruiters from multiple colleges approached Barlette to transfer and he chose Syracuse University. In 1971, he handled kickoff returns for the Orangemen with 13 returns for 244 yards, an 18.8 average. Barlette was the third leading rusher for Syracuse in ‘72 with 68 attempts for 275 yards and a team-long 33-yard carry. As an SU senior, Barlette was the Orange’s second leading rusher with 80 carries for 317 yards and 7 pass receptions for 101 more before breaking his collarbone against Boston College.
After earning his degree from Syracuse in the spring of 1974, Barlette signed a three-year contract with Birmingham Americans of the World Football League, but was released a week before the season’s opening game.
Bob returned to his hometown to work and raise a family. He was a school board member for the Dunkirk City Schools for 14 years, serving as its president for 7 years. He coached Little League and Babe Ruth League baseball and was a volunteer football and track coach at his high school alma mater.
In 2017, he competed in the grueling Spartan obstacle race in Toronto, Canada with his sons and won his age group.
Bob Barlette was inducted into the Section VI Hall of Fame in December 2022.