Tim Bartz can't put his best foot forward.
Because he doesn't have one.
While untrue, that's the kind of running joke that followed Bartz as a senior forward on the Highland boys soccer team. His incredible speed and precise timing helped make him a prolific scorer, but also overshadowed all his other talents.
"My foot skills are mediocre; they're alright," Bartz said. "If I didn't have speed, I wouldn't be able to score like I did. … The running joke was I didn't really know how to play soccer, I was just fast."
Bartz used his speed to finish his senior season with 17 goals. In fact, he ended up making the VISAA Division II all-state team, which one presumes requires better foot skills than simply slipping some toes into a pair of cleats.
Nevertheless, quickness was Bartz's best asset on the soccer field and on the tennis court, and it's what helped make him the 2014 Fauquier Times Highland Boys Athlete of the Year.
"If he got a step on somebody, he was gone," Hawks soccer coach Reynolds Oare said. "But his composure with the ball … and finishing in the right spots, it was awesome."
A recent graduate, Bartz, 18, left Highland with a pair of state championships in tow. Three years ago, as a freshman, he helped the Hawks win the D-II state soccer championship. Then, this past season, as a senior, he played a crucial role in helping the Hawks win the D-II state tennis title.
While Bartz's identifies first as a soccer player, winning that tennis state championship is the highlight of his Highland career
Bartz literally helped the Hawks clinch the state title as a member of Highland's No. 3 doubles team. With the state final dual tied, 4-4, Bartz and teammate Rich Gerhardt won the deciding No. 3 doubles match, 10-5, over North Cross’ Miguel Garcia and Nishant Jha.
"Everyone there at the state tournament was watching us," Bartz said. "It was all riding on me and Rich. It was definitely the biggest moment in my sports career."
Gerhardt and Bartz trailed, 3-2, but then rallied to win by five points.
"It was a really intense game," Bartz said. "There were lots of cheers; lots of trash talking."
Bartz also won his No. 6 singles match over Jha, keeping the Hawks in contention for the state title at 3-3 entering doubles play. Bartz joined Highland No. 1 Jack Thomas and No. 2 Adam Fenton — both NCAA Division I-bound players — as the only Hawks to go 2-0 in the dual.
"We knew we had a chance to win state, and probably the only chance for a while," Bartz said. "I'm glad I got to contribute."
Bartz had a lighter impact on Highland's 2010 boys soccer state championship, but he still contributed for a team that featured 10 seniors.
"We pulled it off," he said. "That was awesome. But I wouldn't have traded this [senior soccer] year for any of the past years. ... I enjoyed this season more because I had such a bigger role. I love this team."
What's in a name?
Bigfoot. The Wall. Weight Room.
That's the eclectic list of nicknames Tim Bartz has earned over the years.
He began playing soccer at age 4, and by age 8 he could kick a ball farther than anyone else on the field. Hence, Bigfoot.
"I was the only kid on the team that could kick it from one end to the other," he said. "And sometimes it would go in."
"It's not a big field for 8-year-olds," said Bartz's mother, Diane. "But everyone was in awe."
That nickname didn't stick for long, but Bartz's ability to inspire awe did.
"He's amazing to watch as far as his skill," his mother said of his high school career. "You'd sit there in the stands an just exclaim – people around me would be like, 'Wow.'"
As a tennis player, Bartz's nickname was The Wall because he would return every shot, often spoiling great shots by opponents. He used his speed to cover the entire court and relied on his opponents to finally make mistakes.
"It was almost depressing to play against him," Hawks tennis coach Paola Riccetti said. "He never misses. He runs every ball down and doesn't quit. He's so mentally tough."
As a senior soccer player, Bartz picked up the nickname Weight Room because whenever he collided with an opposing player Bartz usually stayed on his feet while that opponent tumbled to the turf.
Noticeably missing from that list of nicknames, however, is one that refers to Bartz's speed. Already fast as a Highland underclassman, Bartz added a few rpm to his stride prior to his senior season.
"I noticed it in preseason, playing pickup," he said. "I would just start running and nobody could catch me. … I could blow past people and keep the ball with me."
He's still not sure from where that burst came.
"I didn't do any work over the summer. I didn't start running everyday or anything," he said. "I didn't grow at all in height between junior and senior year. I just became so much faster for some reason."
"I'm sure he worked at it," Bartz's mother said. "A matter of working out in the weight room."
Whatever the reason, Bartz used his quickness to score almost twice as many goals
as a senior as he had the first years seasons of his Highland career. He often used one quick touch to get the ball around a defender and then beat the goalkeeper. He also frequently ran down balls served up by Hawks midfielder Ward Van de Water.
"He's a big reason I was able to score so much," Bartz said. "He can literally place the ball wherever he wants."
Van de Water's ball skills paired perfectly with Bartz's speed and finishing ability. Seeing the strengths of his teammate also gave Bartz a chance to self-deprecate, especially when Oare made Bartz work on technical aspects of the game, like dribbling in tight spaces.
"He always joked, 'I hate you for making me do this,'" Oare said of Bartz. "That wasn't his thing. But he maximized his soccer ability and really was a force."
"He never, ever, ever lost a 50/50 ball," Oare said. "He got really good at settling the ball out of the air and could dribble with speed – very dangerous."
Bartz only played forward for one season at Highland, though. He spent three seasons in the midfield and even began his senior year as that Hawks' sweeper.
"Other coaches would come up to me … and be like, 'Geez, that kid in the back is unbelievable," Oare said of Bartz as sweeper. "It was true. He was lights out. His reactions, his range side to side, his ability to make the right decisions. It was just ridiculous."
Regardless, Oare decided to move Bartz to forward. Bartz rewarded his coach with those 17 goals and six assists en route to being named the Delaney Athletic Conference Player of the Year and making the all-state team.
"He was a goal-scorer extraordinaire," Oare said. "After he had done so much of the grunt work [during his first three years] it was so cool to see him be The Guy. It was such an awesome progression."
As a freshman, Bartz joined a senior-laden team, but still started some games an as the outside right defensive midfielder.
"I'm sure it was pretty intimidating to be a freshman on that team," Oare said. "But right off the bat, all the older guys kind of took notice – 'Yeah, this guy's pretty good.'"
Bartz still needed to develop as a soccer player, though, and didn't play as much during the second half of that season. The Hawks won the 2010 D-II state title but then left Oare with a gutted roster in 2011.
"He came back his sophomore year and he was way more athletic," Oare said. "But it was kind of tough because we lost that entire senior class."
Bartz served as Highland's defensive center midfielder and center back that season. Then, as a junior, he shifted to attacking center midfielder.
"His instincts, speed and physicality really came on," Oare said. "The guy is fearless. He will throw his body around on the field. ... He was really impressive."
Tim Bartz never climbed higher than No. 3 on Highland's tennis ladder.
His teammates still voted him a captain his junior and senior seasons. That's a designation usually reserved for teams' No. 1 or 2 singles players.
"Kids look up to him, even tennis players that are technically better than him," Paola Riccetti said. "An incredible leader … He's such a strong influence."
A four-year starter, Bartz played No. 3 singles as a sophomore before Highland added D-I college prospects in Adam Fenton and Jack Thomas. Bartz finished out his career rotating between No. 4, 5 and 6 in the Hawks' lineup.
"He said, 'I'll play where I need to play to help the team,'" Riccetti said. "It was never all about him."
"And he was the one at the beginning of the season that said, 'We're going to win state,'" she said. "He was the reason [for winning]. He brought the team together."
Bartz went 13-1 in singles play as a senior and 14-0 in doubles matches. He often played No. 1 doubles with Fenton or Rich Gerhardt.
"He was only a seasonal player," Riccetti said, "but he was one of my top players just due to athletic ability and his brain."
And his speed, of course. That attribute helped him get his "The Wall" nickname as soon as he stepped on the Highland courts as a freshman.
"That was my game – defense," Bartz said. "I didn't have the skill sets of guys playing years and years, but it didn't deter me. They'd hit a nice shot down the line that I couldn't even imagine I could hit, but it didn't faze me, I just kept hitting it back."
"That was really still my game for most of my career," he said. "I'm not nearly as good as I was in soccer, but I love the sport."
Bartz's father, Paul, introduced him to tennis at age 8 and bought him his first kid's racket. Bartz wore out that child's racket by the time he joined the Hawks.
In fact, he showed up at Highland as a freshman without a racket in hand.
"Coach had to lend me one for the season," he said. "At the end of the season she just gave it to me for a gift."
Bartz decided to retire his racket after his senior season at Highland. He won't play that sport for a college team. Nor will he play soccer.
The recent graduate plans to attend the University of Virginia, where he hopes to join the McIntire School of Commerce and major in business.
While he won't play for the U.Va. men's soccer team, he will keep his skills sharp.
"I'm definitely going to play soccer, whether it's club, or intramural, or just with a couple guys," Bartz said. "And I definitely want to coach soccer when I'm older."
As a leader of Highland's tennis and soccer teams, Bartz often collaborated with his coaches. Following road soccer matches, for example, he would mosey to the front Highland's bus mid-trip and sit down with Oare and the coaching staff.
"It was just a little post-game chalk talk, but I'll miss that," Oare said.
Tim Bartz was born without a transmission.
He doesn't have a "game speed" and a "practice speed." His effort is always in high gear.
"I've never met anybody with that intensity and will to win," Paola Riccetti said.
"I'm one of the most competitive people I know," Bartz said.
During soccer practices, that sometimes meant trying to get the best of Highland's coaches when they decided to participate in team scrimmages.
"He'd want to beat us more than anybody else," Reynolds Oare said. "He was one of those guys that always kept me on my toes. … He was always willing to kind of test me and throw a little sass at me – in a good way."
Oare and the Highland coaches were often among the best players on the practice field. So Bartz sought the challenge of taking them on and trying to beat them in every way possible.
"I love to go after the coaches. … I'd catch my breath when other kids had the ball," Bartz said with a laugh. "Once [Oare] got the ball I was on top of him every single time."
Naturally, Bartz brought that same intensity, enthusiasm and competitiveness to Highland's matches.
"He'd get the guys juiced up," Oare said. "There'd be times in practice sometimes I'd almost have to calm him down. He was so competitive.
"He'll definitely go down as one of the most memorable kids I've gotten to coach," Oare said.
Riccetti saw the same traits during the Highland tennis team's matches and practices. Winning a match wasn't enough for Bartz, he wanted to win every point of every game in each match.
In fact, he once did exactly that this past season against Fredericksburg Academy's Wyatt Davies. Bartz won that No. 4 singles match, 8-0, without losing a single point – the mystical "golden set."
"Pretty incredible," Riccetti said. "That shows you how focused he is. … He's like every coach's dream."
Riccetti said Bartz often won matches, 8-0 or 10-0. She also estimated that he lost only five matches over his four-year career.
"That kid doesn't lose," she said. "If he lost, there had to be something wrong, like he was sick. Or you'd have to be a professional tennis player to beat him."
Nevertheless, Bartz's best memory from his senior soccer season was a loss.
Highland lost to Carlisle
, 5-2, but played some of its best soccer of the season during the first half against that highly-ranked team, and did so despite a four-hour bus ride to Axton.
"We had no real intention of winning," Bartz said. "We just wanted to go out there an play hard and show we could compete with them."
Then Bartz scored a pair of goals to give Highland a surprising 2-0 lead in the first half.
"Everybody went wild. We were up on this good team," he said. "They had only been scored on six times in over 10 games.
"It was amazing. I was so proud," he said. "We thought we were going to beat the best in the state."
Then Carlisle scored five unanswered goals.
The Hawks' season later ended in the first round of the state tournament with a sudden death overtime loss, 2-1, to Norfolk Collegiate, but they finished with a solid 14-4-1 record.
Bartz had to play that final match with a back injury and missed significant minutes after halftime.
"Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do more for my team," he said. "I was hurting bad."
Bartz suffered from the reoccurring injury after he fractured a vertebrae in his lower back as an eighth grader. He missed half of his sophomore season after tweaking his back and then injured it again during the DAC tournament final of his senior season.
Highland won that final, 1-0, over Trinity Christian to claim the DAC tournament title after also winning the regular season championship, but Bartz left with a back injury after colliding with Trinity's goalkeeper. He spent time at a chiropractor in an attempt to recover for the ensuing Norfolk Collegiate game, but still had to play through pain.
He scored a first-half goal to tie the Norfolk match at halftime, 1-1, but then Highland lost in overtime on a header off a corner kick.
"Even when he is injured, he will do whatever it takes to get back on the field again," Diane Bartz said. "Soccer, it's very important to him."
- - - - -
The Bartz File
Mother, Diane, helps with his father's Windwood Theatrical business. Father is Paul. Sister Alex, 24, is a 2008 Highland graduate and elementary school teacher at the Hills in Middleburg.
Favorite sports teams:
"My coaches always make fun of me because I never watch sports on TV. I'll watch the Super Bowl or the basketball finals, but I'd much rather play sports than just watch them. Whenever one of the guys says, 'Oh, you see the game last night?' I just take the ball and start shooting."
Favorite video game:
"The only video game I play is actually FIFA. I have every single one since 2010 and I'm pre-ordering 2015. Whenever we hang out at my house, or somebody else's, we have to do it. And I always win, of course."
Mark Wahlberg. "He's awesome. He's a tough guy, and he used to be a rapper – Marky Mark. ... He used to be known for being a bad kid and turned into this world class actor, and he's jacked out of his mind. Everybody wants to be like that."
Favorite music artist:
Mike Stud. "He's a baseball player from Duke who started rapping when he had a career ending injury."
Aer and Shwayze. "I like rap like Wiz Khalifa and Drake, but [Aer and Shwayze] are more laid back for when you're driving 40 minutes to school 7 a.m. You don't want to listen to that intense rap quite yet. That's for the ride home."
Polo Ralph Lauren. "The best clothing apparel by far, and Nike is the best for athletic apparel."
By Roger Federer: "Winning never grows old."
"What I love about soccer is the team dynamic. When you make a goal is soccer, it takes a lot of teamwork, a lot of buildup, and it's just a great feeling because its so hard to get a goal. … You're going to win a lot of points in tennis."
Jersey No. 5:
"Freshman got last pick, and coach just threw it at me – 'Tim, you're No. 5.'"
Osaka Japanese Steak & Seafood. "Love that place. I get the filet mignon. And we've gone to Olive Garden so many times. I always get the spaghetti with meat sauce, and the bread sticks are amazing. Everybody knows that."
Has frequently worked three part time jobs while in high school. He was referee for U16 soccer games, worked weekends at Scruffy's Ice Cream Parlor in Middleburg and had a summer job as a camp coordinator at The Hill School in Middleburg.