Christian Baker is cross country state champion

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Christian Baker is cross country state champion

Daniel Kim, sports editor

For the first time in 50 years, a Pioneer won the individual cross country state championship. Senior Christian Baker won the Missouri Class 4 State Cross Country Meet on at Oak Hills Golf Course in Jefferson City, Missouri Nov. 3. Baker was the first of 165 runners qualified for the meet to cross the finish line, covering the 5-kilometer course in 15 minutes and 42 seconds.

Around the 3-mile mark, Carthage High School’s Clayton Whitehead passed Baker. But with 100 meters to go, Baker out kicked Whitehead and finished 2 seconds ahead. Baker said the state meet was the most exhausting meet he has run, but it was also the most exciting moment of his life.

“To be honest, I was just so dead,” Baker said. “I could barely stand up and walk. I just laid down and spread my arms. It was [the] most tired I [have] ever been after a race. Eventually, I got up and gave [my mother] a big hug, and all my teammates were [cheering for me]. It was super exciting.”

Kirkwood boys’ cross country head coach Wayne Baldwin said he couldn’t help but to join the celebration with Baker’s family and teammates after Baker won the state championship.

“[When Christian crossed the finish line, I thought,] ‘What a great race,’” Baldwin said. “I was following him around the course and I’m running around, watching, and I ran right up to him [to celebrate] when he finished. It made my day. It’s a significant, major milestone in those 37 years [of coaching].”

Baker was the first Kirkwood runner to win the state meet since 1968. He is also the first state champion that Baldwin coached in his 37-year career according to Baldwin.

“I was a fortunate human being to be able to coach and interact with Baker for four years,” Baldwin said “I hope it’s not another 50 years [for a Kirkwood runner to win the state meet], but it could be. Winning a state meet is a no easy task.”

Baldwin said Baker is one of the hardest working athletes he has coached and he was willing to do whatever is necessary to become the state champion. Baker said after finishing 29th on last year’s state meet and missing out on getting a medal, he was driven to train harder than he ever had before, even if that meant waking up at 5 a.m. to run.

“Winning state was [an] accumulation of [a] whole year of effort,” Baker said. “Last year, I had a disappointing state meet, so I put my head down and I was like, ‘I’m going to commit to [running] full-time.’ I started running every day [and I] didn’t miss a day over this winter and summer. So I think that’s probably the most exciting part of winning the whole thing. I spent the whole year working as hard as I could where I could be competing for the state title. So to finally to achieve it, it’s just an incredible feeling.”

Baker said he had a specific training schedule during the past offseason, running seven to nine times a week. Every Wednesday he ran a cut-down run, which is a 10-mile run where he gradually increased his pace each mile mark, running a 5:10 pace for the final mile. On Sundays, he went on long distance runs ranging from 12-14 miles and aerobic runs other days that are around eight miles. Baker ran a total of 575 miles this summer. But even with the first place medal, Baker said he is still training.

“[The team] has a Regionals [Meet] coming up to hopefully qualify for the Nationals,” Baker said. “I went on a long run yesterday and I got a tough week of training up ahead.”

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