Colin Baker crossed the finish line long before anyone else but the Academic Magnet senior is sure he wasn’t alone.
“I wanted to end my last season of high school running on a high note for both me and my mother,” Baker said. “I do believe she was there supporting me and I think she always will be. I hope she can continue to guide me in the right direction as she always as has, just from a more intangible way now.”
Baker won the Class AAA state championship in the 3,200-meter race on Friday, then won the 1,600 on Saturday, a day before Mother’s Day, and exactly 30 days after his mother, Blythe, passed away from bone cancer.
“I would be lying if I didn’t admit I was feeling pretty anxious going into the weekend,” Baker said. “I felt like I owed it to my mother, for all the support she gave me, to go out there and compete with by best effort.”
Baker didn’t just compete, though, he dominated.
The Harvard signee won the 1,600 by more than eight seconds at 4 minutes and 21.14 seconds. He was even better in the 3,200, winning by nearly 29 seconds at 9:15.53, the fastest time run in any meet held in South Carolina this season.
“I think just having more experience as the favorite allowed me to go in a bit more relaxed,” Baker said. “I go into the 3,200 feeling like I have more time to pull away from my competitors so I can relax a little bit more. In the 1,600, there is more of a sense of urgency to pull away and create separation.”
The only faster time by an in-state athlete in the 3,200 this season was Baker’s run in the Arcadia Invitational in California of 8:54.68, which broke a 31-year-old state record. The 2018 Gatorade S.C. Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year is now a three-time state champion in the 3,200, having won the AA title the past two years. The 1,600 gold medal is his first as he placed second in the state the two years prior.
“I am very pleased with how my high school running career panned out,” Baker said. “All of the mental and physical energy I put into running, I feel was well worth it. When I crossed the line of my final high school race in the 1,600, I couldn’t help but smile. There was an enormous sense of fulfillment.
And Baker is sure there was at least one other person smiling alongside.
Bishop England’s girls team won the Class AAA track and field state championship Saturday in Columbia.
Bishops junior Emma Albano won her second straight discus state title by more than 19 feet with a new personal best of 129-06. She also took third in shot put. Grace Hotchkiss won the pole vault by 20 inches, rising to 12-08. Patricia George placed third in the 400, while the Bishops won the 400 and 800 relays.
Katie Brooks placed third in the high jump and eighth in the triple jump. Kelsey Stieby finished fourth in the shot put and sixth in the discus. Brooks was named state Player of the Year in basketball, while Stieby received volleyball’s top state honor. The two are both first-year track athletes. Together, they compiled 15 points in the state meet. Bishop England won by 15 points.
Bishop England finished third in the boys team standings.
Logan Desciak won the 800 at 1:58.54, his best time and less than a second ahead of teammate Aidan Richter. Sam Boykin placed second in the 3,200. Jack McAvoy landed second in the pole vault. The Bishops also finished second in the 800 relay.
Academic Magnet’s boys team placed 11th, while the girls finished 17th in AAA. Isabella Darce won the 400 by four-hundredths of a second at 58.46.
Philip Simmons placed second on both the boys and girls side of the Class AA state championship meet.
Iron Horses sophomore Noah Ward led the boys team, winning the 800 with a new personal best of 1:56.96, the 1,600 in 4:33.91 and the 3,200 in 10:03.08.
For the girls, freshman Najhyrai Watson won the 200 with a new personal best of 24.49. Seventh-grader Hailey Myers won the 800 at 2:19.57 and the 1,600 in 5:16.76 — as well as winning the 3,200 in 11:59.30.
Wando boys placed second, while the girls finished ninth in the Class AAAAA state championships.
Warriors senior David Kowalchick won the discus at 181-10 and the shot put at 58-01.5, setting new school records in both events. David’s brother Paul landed third in both.
Wando eighth-grader Hannah Togami led the girl side, winning the pole vault at 12-00, just an inch off her personal best and the Warriors school record.