All Connor Baker wanted to do was not back down from a challenge.
“It all started when we were working out for football and Coach (Jack) Mitchell told me that I couldn’t jump over these hurdles — and I could not let the challenge go,” Baker said. “He told me I would get a milkshake if I would jump over the hurdles. Then he said to come down and do the long jump and the next day I was going to Green County to be in a track meet. He said, ‘You’re on the track team now.’”
All Baker did in that meet in was win the triple jump at 39-1½ and finish second in the long jump at 17-8 and did so by an inch to teammate Matthew Lewis.
“When we went down to Green County (on March 13) and I ended up winning the triple jump and finishing second in the long jump, it was about the love for competition and I fell in love with track,” Baker said. “I had no clue really what I was doing. Coming into spring, I thought I would be on the fishing team and all of a sudden I’m on the track team. I’ve always loved jumping and competing — it’s my competitive nature. Just going down there and proving to myself that I could do this was a great feeling. Everyone on the track team accepted me really well and I fell in love with the sport.”
Baker won the long jump (17-7½) and placed fourth in the triple jump (39-2) and high jump (5-8) at the Greenwood All Comers meet on March 28.
“That was the first time I tried the high jump,” he said.
Baker had a great season.
The newbie made it to the Class 2-A state meet and finished ninth in the high jump (5-10) and 17th in the long jump (18-8½).
“It was honestly one of the best times of my life — competing against the best in the state,” Baker said. “I know I didn’t finish how I wanted to, but I have high expectations for next year. Staying the night with some of my best friends, there’s nothing like it being there together as friends and teammates. Everyone wants to get to the state meet and I’m proud I got there in my first year.
“The main thing I take away from it is the atmosphere. I learned how to control myself. I kind of let my emotions get to me and I couldn’t do what I would normally do and I kind of got down on myself. I know what it takes to win. I know what it takes to get there and I’ll be more prepared for next year. You can’t let your emotions get to you. You have to have everything under control. I was nervous, but how can you not be nervous. That’s the human in you. It just wasn’t my day. It happens.”
Baker has been selected the Area Sophomore of the Year in a runaway. He received 28 points and five first-place votes of area coaches and The News-Enterprise staff. Fort Knox’s Laval Alford was second with 11 points and one first-place vote. Central Hardin’s Samuel Bennet was third with nine points and a first-place vote. Fort Knox’s Joshua Daniel also received a first-place vote.
“I’m so blessed. I couldn’t do this without my teammates and coaches and family. I think I have the best teammates and coaches anyone could ask for.” Baker said. “Plus, I give all my honor to Him. He’s blessed me. My family has supported me through it all. My brother Chase was on the team and that was another thing. It was his last year and it was the last sport in high school I got to be with him.
“I’m honored to be able to get this award and hopefully there will be big things to come in the future.”
Baker finished third in the long jump (19-11¼), fourth in the high jump (6-2) and sixth in the triple jump (39-6½) in the Region meet. The high jump mark set a school record.
“I was real surprised with myself this year,” he admitted. “I knew I could jump and I’ve always been able to jump good. Coming out for the team and proving to myself that I belonged out there was important. I had no expectations coming into the season because I’ve never done it before. I just wanted to get my name out there and do my best. As time went on and I got better and better, I really thought I could do something special with this.
“My short-term goal is that I want to better my form and technique. My goal next year is to win the state meet (in the high jump). I know it’s a bold statement, but I know that if I get my technique down I can do it because now I know what it takes to win at that level. That’s my goal.”
Baker now has the opportunity to accumulate at least three school records.
“The high jump is something I really enjoy doing. It comes a little more natural to me than the long and triple,” he said.