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2013 NewsTribune Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year Maria Baldwin.
NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
The Maria Baldwin File
School: Fieldcrest Year: Junior Season accomplishments: *5th-place state finish in 3,200 *8th-place state finish in 1,600 *Only area female athlete to earn multiple individual state medals *Set FHS school record of 11:27.19 in 3,200 *Also holds school record in mile at 5:19
According to Fieldcrest girls track and cross country coach Carol Bauer, good distance runners are forged in the offseason.
And that’s where Fieldcrest junior Maria Baldwin used her personal fire — the disappointment of last year’s state meet, where she came up short of trips to the medal podium in two events — to steel her reserve for a return trip to state.
“The season is really made up before track season starts,” Bauer explains. “Throughout the winter I would give her workouts and she would be running in all kinds of weather. You have to put in that hard work. I tell the kids, everyone works hard when March and April start and the meets begin. Especially for distance kids, you’ve got to put in that base and be able to do the hard workouts it takes.”
Bauer said Baldwin always had EIU’s O’Brien Stadium in the back of her mind this offseason. “We didn’t really talk about it, and certainly her cross country season gave us a lot of success. But still, there was a thought of unfinished business at the blue track in Charleston,” Bauer said.
And Baldwin’s determined investment of hard work last winter, which came on the heels of a state medal in cross country, would pay dividends this spring.
The distance standout erased the memory of her sophomore jinx with a stellar showing at this year’s IHSA State Meet, earning a fifth-place finish in the 3,200 meters in a school-record 11 minutes, 27.19 seconds and an eighth-place medal in the mile with a time of 5:22. For her stellar end to a strong season, Baldwin is the 2013 NewsTribune Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“Getting two medals means the world to me, especially since last year not even getting (a state medal). My goal this year was to get both of them — and to do that just feels great,” Baldwin said.
“It was really hard for me to miss out on a state medal (as a sophomore), especially after telling myself all year that I could do it and not being able to do it. You get down on yourself, but you can’t keep your head down. You have to lift it back up and tell yourself that you are one of the best, and train your absolute hardest,” Baldwin said.
Along with her desire to return to the state medal stand, where she hoisted an eighth-place medal in the 3,200 as a freshman, Baldwin had something else driving her success — a familiar face and family connection on the sidelines in her older brother Keith, who took over as the Fieldcrest boys track and field coach and helped motivate his younger sister.
“He’s always, ever since I was younger, been an amazing motivator and gives me so much determination to meet my goals. ... He’s just always uplifting and I love that. To have him there at practice and every single one of my meets, it was just great. I had someone constantly keeping me focused and keeping my eyes on the prize,” said Baldwin.
Adding a family atmosphere to track this year was a big bonus for Maria, one of seven children in the Baldwin family, which includes freshman sister/teammate Annette. “It was a natural fit and it definitely helped out. … To have him be there was awesome,” Baldwin said.
Next year, Baldwin has her sights set on lowering her school distance records, which include a time of 5:19 in the mile, as well as making a run on Fieldcrest’s all-time best half-mile mark of 2:25.
She’s not worried about this spring’s success cooling her fire this winter, after all she’s got goals to accomplish and limited time left to accomplish them.
“I believe I can reach my goals. It’s my senior year (coming up) and I want to go out with a bang. I’ve got to get these times down and train my absolute hardest because it’s my last year. I remember when it was my freshman year I dreamed of where I would be right now. This is it. I believe I can do it.”
NewsTribune Sports Writer Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.
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