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‘That’s where I started running’: How Alaska helped Ronnie Baker sprint to the Olympics

Ronnie Baker of the U.S. celebrates after winning the men's 100 meters race final at the IAAF...
Ronnie Baker of the U.S. celebrates after winning the men's 100 meters race final at the IAAF Diamond League athletics meeting at London Stadium in London, Saturday, July 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)(Matt Dunham | AP)
Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 7:28 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s make or break at the U.S. Olympic Trials for athletes standing on the doorstep of their childhood dreams, and that pressure was evident for sprinter Ronnie Baker as he competed in his first-ever Olympic Trials final on Monday in the 100-meter dash.

Baker took second place in the 100-meter finals, running a personal best of 9.85 seconds and earned himself a spot on the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team.

“I look back on that now and was very relieved when I got second and made the team,” Baker said over Zoom on Wednesday. “I was like, man, if I can handle that amount of nervous excitement and pressure, I can literally do anything in the world.”

The 27-year-old sprinter was born in Louisville, Kentucky but lived in Anchorage from are 7 to 12. During his time in Alaska, Baker said he discovered his need for speed.

“I knew I was fast from being in elementary school and I was always the fastest kid in the school,” Baker said. “No one could beat me in anything.”

He credits the start of his running career to Willow Crest Elementary School where he first started cross-country running.

“I have photos of me in Alaska when I was younger competing in elementary schools at those cross-country meets,” Baker said. “Running through the woods and crazy stuff, and it’s freezing temperatures.”

Baker said he stills stays in touch with some of his teachers and even promised his gym teacher, Mr. Jones, as a kid that’d he run in the Olympics.

“(I) told him when I make the Olympic team, are you still going to be here?” Baker said. “He was like ‘I’m going to be here,’ and said ‘if you ever want to come back, come and see me.’”

After Alaska, Baker moved back to Louisville where his track career took off at Ballard High School. There he was named Kentucky Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year twice. He won 3A state championships in the 100 and 400-meter dash.

His prep career landed him in Fort Worth, Texas where he ran for Texas Christian University and was a two-time national champion for the Horned Frogs. The first round of the men’s 100-meter races begins on July 31 and can be viewed on KTUU.

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