IN THE BOOKS: Baker sets goal, sets new THS 800-meter record

Mar. 19—Usually, when the offseason comes for an athlete, it offers a much-appreciated time to rest and start to get your body ready for training next season.

While some athletes want to get time off as much as possible, senior Tahlequah Tiger Trae Baker didn't have that motto last season. Many runners were taking time to refresh their legs, but Baker had a goal: to break the THS 800-meter record. In his pursuit to achieve that, Baker extended his season by two months, but the extra two months were not enough for Baker to break the school record.

Baker didn't have to wait long into his senior outdoor season to break the mark. In his second event of the season, Baker put his name in the record book with a time of 153.5 in the Texas Distance Festival.

"It feels good; that record has been there since the '80s," Baker said. "Since my freshman year, I have walked by it and wanted to break it. I persevered for a while and it was a great relief to break that."

Baker has shown improvement since the end of last season, but his advancement since the start of last season has been astronomical. Baker was within a second at the end of his junior year, and to open last year, he was 5 seconds slower than this year.

"I extended my season by two months to break the record; I was about three-tenths off," Baker said. "I have improved by five seconds since this time last season. It just shows I am going all in on running and doing a lot more things than I did last year."

During the race, Baker was feeling strong throughout the start. Once the final 100 meters hit, his legs tightened up and he had to push through to take the record. Baker said despite this, he had a strong lean. Once he looked at the time, he knew his fate was sealed in the THS record books.

"I started to get tight the last 100 and I just gave it all I had," Baker said. "I saw my time when I finished, and it was a great relief to see it. It is very exciting. That isn't the end goal, though; I am still pushing to go faster. I have a month and a half to go until State."

Baker's new record takes down one that stood since 1982. While Baker set his mark in the 800-meter race, the time he beat was actually from the old 880-meter run converted to the 800.

"When something has been intact for 42 years it is a great accomplishment to beat it," THS distance coach David Spears said. "I know he feels great about it and the coaches are proud of him. He works hard and deserves everything he gets."

Baker's name is known by one record, and he has his eyes set on more. He is looking to also break the mile record that has been alluding him throughout his career. Right now, he is just .7 seconds away from that record.

On top of that, Baker looks to start racing in some more 400-meter showings to see if he can break that record. Even though it isn't one of his most natural races, Baker is confident in his chances. By the end of the year, he could be in line to break four school records, according to Spears.

"More aerobic training — my pacing on my third and second lap needs to be quicker," Baker said. "I'm excited that is my next goal. We are trying to improve in the 4x800 because I want to be good as a team. It takes a lot of guts and to have a lot of speed and endurance, and it is really hard. I enjoy it, though. Last year, I didn't like the mile, but this year, I am starting to like it more."

Baker and the rest of the Tigers will be back in action on March 29 at Pryor. The Tigers' host meet is scheduled for April 9.

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