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Alisa Baron, a 2008 Bureau Valley alumna, has some fun with her daughter, Reese. Baron, a 13-time state medalist in cross country and track and field at BV, competed in track and field for three years at Southern Illinois University and is currently in charge of an optical department for glaucoma consultants in Glenview. Submitted photo
After graduating from Bureau Valley in 2008, cross county and track and field star Alisa Baron knew she wanted to find her way to a city with mass opportunity and potential.
In June, she received what she asked for as Baron and her 2-year-old daughter Reese moved to Chicago to take a position as the leader of the optical department for glaucoma consultants in Glenview.
“When I moved back from (Southern Illinois University), I needed a job and found one at an optical place (in Peoria),” said Baron, who ran for SIU from 2008-11. “I tried working at the bank for awhile, but I hated it. I decided to go back to optical and was able to find this opportunity because I wanted to be closer to the city. There is a lot of opportunity here. It’s a state of the art facility and I work with Dr. Steven Brown, one of the best eye surgeons in the midwest.
“Anybody who needs to see an ophthalmologist comes through here, so it’s not just glaucoma. We see a lot of elderly patients with cataracts, glaucoma and people who need eye surgery. I run the optical department here, so I’m in charge of anything having to do with glasses or contacts.”
When Baron accepted a full-scholarship to SIU instead of the offers from many schools including Northern Illinois University, Illinois State University and Western Michigan University, she enrolled in the speech pathology program.
However, after working in the eye field, Baron says it is her new career path, which is quite a ways from speech and what earned her a college scholarship — running.
“One of my highlights of coaching is the day (my daughter Alyssa) got fourth at state in the pole vault and they were lining them up at the medal stand (in 2008) when the public announcer says ‘In an apparent state record, Alisa Baron wins the 400 and now to the award stand for the pole vault,’” BV cross country and girls track and field coach Dale Donner said.
“I thought to myself ‘My daughter is standing right there and I had an athlete break the state record.’ I got chills just talking about it.”
Baron still holds the 400-meter dash state record with her time of 55.66 and is a member of the 2006 3,200-meter relay team along with Angie Bickett, Molly VonHolten and Jessica Ries that holds the Bureau County record at 9:38.57.
In high school, Baron accomplished the rare feat of reaching state all four years in not only one sport but two as she frequently visited the podium in both track and cross country.
“Her senior year she says ‘Coach, I’m only doing three track events, can I try a field event?’” said Donner, who still sees Baron periodically. “She said ‘How about the high jump?’ but I said she could land on the bar and hurt her back. I didn’t want to do that. She then asked me about the triple jump. I thought to myself ‘I didn’t want her to get hurt’, but I said sure since I was teaching it to the kids the next day.
“I’m thinking people come over and try it, but then get frustrated and quit. I’m thinking she’ll come to one day of practice and never do the triple jump again. She says ‘I know how to do it’ and she takes one step and triple jumps 30 feet.”
Along with her state championship in the 400 during her senior, Baron also placed sixth in the triple jump and fourth in the 400 relay.
The medals capped a high school career that included 13 state medals as she won 10 in track and three in cross country after BV finished third as a team Baron’s freshman year and placing 11th and fifth her junior and senior seasons.
“Whenever we would run together, she would give me advice on how to improve myself,” said Baron’s cousin CJ Rhodes, who was on Princeton’s track and cross country team and is transferring to ISU to major in accounting after wrapping up two seasons on the IVCC women’s basketball team in May. “When we were running she would say things like ‘Pick it up a little bit’ or ‘Make your strides longer.’ She would motivate me to be a better runner. I definitely looked up to her as an athlete. I tried to better myself and follow in her footsteps.”
The accomplishments didn’t stop there for Baron as she finished her freshman season at SIU with All-Missouri Valley Conference honors in the 400 and the 1,600 relay.
Baron made the indoor all-conference team her freshman and sophomore seasons and the outdoor all-conference team her freshman and junior campaigns.
The SIU record book also has her name in it as she was a member of the 1,600 relay team which set the school record with a time of 3:36.51 in 2010.
Now, with her priorities set to raising Reese and enjoying the big city, Baron is taking her ‘Be the best’ mentality to her optical department every day.
“I know she wanted to move to Chicago and have her own place in the city because Chicago has a lot of opportunities there,” said Rhodes. “She wanted a better job. I think it was a good move for her. She definitely seems happy there.”
Brandon LaChance can be reach at 220-6995, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.
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