Half-Mile Wonder: North’s Baker is The Republic Girls Track Athlete of the Year

As this year’s track season continued to progress, Lily Baker just kept getting faster and faster.

Between the 4×800-meter relay and the open 800, the Columbus North junior continually lowered her season and personal records. She ended up anchoring the state runner-up 4×800 relay team and finishing sixth at state in the 800.

“I’m really happy with how the season went,” said Baker, The Republic Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year. “I think we performed really well as a team, but I’m also happy with how I performed individually. Running PR after PR in the 800 was really exciting for me.”

Baker’s last PR came in the 4×800 relay at state. She ran a 2 minute, 11.29-second anchor split for the Bull Dogs, who shattered their school record with a 9:08.32 clocking to finish runner-up to Valparaiso.

“We were satisfied with second,” Baker said. “A 9:08 was crazy for us. We really hadn’t run a fast time until regional, when we ran a 9:13, and we thought that was good. State, we thought we had it in the bag, but Valpo just had it.”

Baker, who ran a school-record 2:14.80 in the open 800 in winning the regional, came back to finish sixth at state in 2:15.17.

“That was really exciting,” Baker said. “Leading up to it, I was a little nervous, because last year, I didn’t perform that great in the 800. This year, I was more confident going into the 800 knowing what I could do, compared to what other girls were capable of. Coach (Rick) Sluder kept telling me I was going to be in the top nine, I didn’t have to worry, so I believed him, and I just went out and ran.”

“When you have a team full of standout distance runners, and somebody ends up being the best, that says a lot, and that’s what Lily did this year,” Sluder added. “She had a great year. At the state meet, she definitely performed at her peak.”

Baker also ran the 1,600 and 4×400 relay on occasion. She ran the 4×400 at the Conference Indiana meet, when the Bull Dogs won the team title.

“Season long, she ran great,” Sluder said. “If we needed her to run a 4×800, she ran it. If we needed her to run the 4×400, she ran it. She was a big reason why we won the conference meet. Every time we needed her, she was there for us.”

With three of the four runners from the 4×800 relay team back, Baker hopes to be able to win state in that event next year. She also hopes to go under 2:10 in the open 800.

“I ran a 2:11 in the relay, so I think 2:10 is very manageable,” Baker said.

Last fall, Baker finished eighth at the state cross-country meet to lead North to the team title and earn The Republic Girls Cross-Country Runner of the Year honors. She has been talking to a couple of Division I schools, but has not yet lined up any college visits.

After taking last week off, Baker is set to begin training for her senior cross-country season.

“Team goal would be to win state again, and then individual goal, time-related would be 17:25 or 17:30, somewhere in that range,” Baker said. ”My PR is 17:40, and I ran that at Running Lane (Nationals) in Alabama when I had a hurt hip, so I’m hoping that this season after a great track season and good summer training that I’ll be ready to go.”

The Republic All-Area Girls Track and Field team:

Lily Baker, Columbus North: The junior was regional champion and finished sixth at state in the 800 and ran on the state runner-up 4×800 relay team.

Julia Kiesler, Columbus North: The junior finished second in the regional and sixth at state in the 3,200.

Katherine Rumsey, Columbus North: The senior was regional champion and finished 11th at state in the 3,200 and ran on the state ruunner-up 4×800 relay team.

Julie Klaus, Columbus North: The junior finished 12th at state in the 800 and ran on the state runner-up 4×800 relay team.

Brianna Newell, Columbus North: The junior was regional champion and state qualifier in the 1,600 and ran on the state runner-up 4×800 relay team.

Abby Jacobi, Columbus North: The senior finished fifth in the regional in the 1,600.

Sierra Newell, Columbus North: The freshman finished sixth in the long jump and eighth in the pole vault in the regional.

Moana Steele, Columbus North: The senior finished eighth in the shot put in the regional.

Jessica Meza, Columbus North: The junior finished eighth in the 400 in the regional.

Kyleigh Wolf, Columbus North: The freshman ran on the winning 4×800 relay team in the sectional.

Hadley Gradolf, Brown County: The junior finished 23rd at state in the 3,200.

Emma Gray, Columbus East: The junior finished fifth in the 300 hurdles and ninth in the 100 in the regional.

Megan Tracy, Columbus East: The junior finished eighth in the discus in the regional.

Honorable mention

Brown County: Christy Sebastian, Xyleigh Thompson. Columbus East: Norah Dwenger, Jenna Guse, Chloe Krueger, Hallie Randle, Mallory Rupp, Taylor Scott, Jordan Sims. Columbus North: Ava Collier, Sasha Goodlow, Natalie Ho, Kayla Jones, Kylah Lawson, Marieme Niang, Alivia Steinkoenig. Jennings County: Aliza Appletage, Halle Franks, Grace Gambrel, Sasha Hicks, Cheyeanna Leslie, Rachael Manning, Avery Willhite. Trinity Lutheran: Emalee Goss.