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When her big sister Maria graduates in two years, Annette Baldwin will have some big shoes to fill for the Fieldcrest cross country team.
But for now, the FHS freshman is content to stay hot on her sister’s heels.
After working her way up from the freshman-sophomore ranks this fall, Annette has joined Maria — a two-time state qualifier who earned all-state honors with a 17th-place finish at Detweiller Park last fall — in forming a formidable 1-2 punch for the Knights.
Saturday, Maria was second in 18:29 and Annette finished 10th in 19:56 at the Prairie Central Invitational.
Two weeks ago the duo both earned medal finishes as Maria was fourth and Annette 25th at the Elmwood-Brimfield Invitational.
It was what Annette envisioned could be possible when she joined the team this fall.
But living up to the expectations of her sister’s success brought plenty of pressure into the equation.
“At first I didn’t know about cross country. I didn’t know if I was going to be good at it or not,” said Annette, who admitted she worried that people would expect her to match her sister’s low times right away. “I just kind of did it to see how the first year went.”
But Maria’s success, the long line of five Baldwin siblings preceding them in Fieldcrest High School running — coach Carol Bauer says she’s been coaching Baldwins since the district was formed 20 years ago — and her father’s prompting helped Annette decide to join the team.
Annette also decided to set her own expectations high.
“I thought it would be pretty cool to have the top two Fieldcrest girls be Baldwin sisters,” she said.
And now that thought has become a reality.
For her part, Maria said having her younger sibling on the squad has helped push her into a leadership role.
“I definitely felt like more of a leader now because I have to help her out and make sure she knows what’s going on, along with the rest of the team,” Maria said.
When asked if the girls grew up competing against each other, Annette and Maria belted out matching laughs of “Yes” simultaneously.
“All the time,” Maria said.
So will Annette catch up with — or even surpass — her big sister before she graduates next fall?
“This year my goal was to be in the low 20s and if I could, make myself start to get really fast,” Annette said. “Next year I want to be around her time.”
Maria remains steadfast, in quintessential big-sister fashion, that no matter how much her little sister improves Annette won’t be finishing in front of her on a cross country course.
“I’m not worried about that at all,” she snaps back when asked about the possibility.
But that doesn’t mean she isn’t rooting for her to come as close as possible.
“I really have a sense of pride when she runs to her abilities. I know she can be so much faster if she puts her mind to it and trains harder,” Maria said. “I think in practice lately she’s been training harder and I know it really means a lot to her to be our second runner.
“I think it’s really cool the Baldwin sisters are the one and two.”
The developing all-Baldwin lead pack is a good thing for the Fieldcrest cross country program, which boasts a family-friendly environment as the roster also features the Pongracz siblings — senior Catilin and freshman Erin and their brother Brandon, a junior.
“At the Elmwood meet, at about a mile and a quarter (Annette) was at the 30th spot and I knew she wanted to be in that top 25. I saw a hunger in her eyes that I recognized. I knew at the point she was really going to run aggressively ... at the point I think that mentally she made the shift over,” said Bauer, who added that Annette followed up with a “phenomenal” run at Prairie Central on Saturday against some tough competition.
It was then that Annette made her move and joined Maria at the top of the team. And the freshman realizing her potential couldn’t have come at a better time as the postseason approaches with the Class 1A St. Bede Regional on Oct. 20.
“You have to wait until they’re hungry for it,” Bauer said of Annette’s mid-season ascent.
“Maria is now ravenous — and that’s exciting.
So, au revoir Alec, arrivederci Daniel, sayanora Stephen and bye-bye Billy.
The Baldwin sisters are out to make a name for themselves.
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.
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