BARDWELL - Barret Looper considers his four years participating in cross country and track at Carlisle County High School as much as a mental exercise as a physical one.
That's a good thing for Looper, and his team.
The senior holds a 3.5 grade-point average, and last year received the Woodmen of the World AP U.S. History Award recognizing outstanding academic achievement.
His mental strength translated into a school record on the cross country team, turning in a time of 18 minutes, two seconds in the 5,000-meter race (3.1 miles).
"I think of (running) as more of a mental challenge than anything," Looper said. "Because you can't break down mentally, you've just got to keep pushing yourself and encouraging yourself mentally to go."
That's something Looper does in and out of the classroom, and it's one reason he's Teen of the Week.
Looper, son of Rhonda and Jeff Looper, is the Murray State University Teen of the Week. Each Monday, the Sun features a different MSU Teen of the Week selected from nominees submitted by high school guidance counselors throughout western Kentucky and southern Illinois. In May, a Teen of the Year will be chosen from the weekly winners, earning a $5,000 scholarship to Murray State. Teen of the Week is part of the Sun's Newspapers in Education program.
Looper's academic prowess has already earned him three hours of college credit at West Kentucky Community and Technical College with 12 more to be completed by the spring.
A four-year member of Future Business Leaders of America, Looper is president of the club this year. "FBLA is definitely by far my favorite club," Looper said. "We've done a March of Dimes (event). We have a 5k run or walk to help raise money for babies born with autism."
His experience in the community is versatile. When he isn't stocking shelves and processing orders at Greg's Supermarket he's competing with the school's academic team or serving as the student council's vice president.
All of his work on top of being a two-year cross country and track team captain doesn't go unnoticed by his coach. "Barret has always displayed a high degree of integrity, responsibility and ambition," said Jonathan Grooms, Looper's history teacher and cross country coach.
"He has been a great example of what a student should be." He's apparently been a good neighbor as well. Mary Hocker of Arlington felt compelled to write a hand-written letter of recommendation for Looper, who grew up near Hocker and helped maintain her property.
"Barret is a most helpful Christian young man, loved and appreciated by old and young," Hocker wrote. "He is highly motivated and unselfish," she wrote, underlined for emphasis.
They are traits Looper hopes to use at the University of Kentucky next fall, where he plans to study political science and pre-law.
No matter where he runs off to next syear, Looper said he's proud of where he comes from.
"Another motivation I get is that we're from Carlisle County and we're a small school," Looper said. "I want to get myself out there and shine out so that people know who Carlisle is."
Contact Adam Shull, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.