MOUNT VERNON — All-Ohio runner Sarah Baker of Mount Vernon High School, who finished 14th among Division I girls at the State Cross Country Championships earlier this month, has been named the 2009 Mount Vernon News Girls Area Cross Country Runner of the Year for 2009.
The honor caps a dominant regular season for Baker. Noticeably stronger this year, Baker finished a very close second at Westerville North in September. After that, she went on a tear, winning at Galion later that month. She also won at Watkins Memorial in October, and was first at the Fredericktown Invitational. Baker placed second in the district and fifth in the regionals on her way to a second straight spot on the podium at Scioto Downs.
“The main goal that I had was for our team to do well,” said Baker. “I wanted us to win at conference and have a chance to win district and whatever we could win and I just thought that a really good goal was for our team to make it to state. Even though we didn’t make it to state, I think that overall, we did really well as a team at regional. We finished seventh and I just think that’s really good for us and, I think, next year they will have an even better chance to get to state and, I think, that is really going to be good for them.”
Baker’s coach knows the effort she put in to attaining her goals.
“She really set some goals after this past track season,” said Mount Vernon girls coach Pat Gray. “We sat down through the summer and she and I came up with a plan for how we were going to achieve her goals. She stuck with it. She was determined the whole time. She never complained. She was always the one to go the extra mile to get things done. I think it really paid off. She always focused on what was coming up next, but never got ahead of herself.”
Joining Baker on the first team is fellow Jacket Celia Leonard. Leonard was 10th at Westerville and eighth at Fredericktown. She made it to the regionals along with Sarah Fowler and Lindsey Studebaker, who are named to the News All-Area team as Honorable Mentions.
Centerburg’s Victoria Holt and her freshman sister, Amelia, are also on the first team. They, along with Honorable Mention Brett Teiga, were a vital part of a Trojans team that quietly became one of the area’s best, qualifying for the state. Victoria Holt led the way for the young Trojans, winning the Mid-Buckeye Conference meet.
East Knox’ Kelly Dobbins overcame a knee injury to place 10th at the districts and 36th at the regionals. She was also named to the first team.
Joining this group is Centerburg’s coach, Sean Sweeney, who was named 2009 Mount Vernon News Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year.
“The kids are really a reflection of what we coaches believe,” said Sweeney, who took a team with only three upperclassmen — including only one senior — to the state tournament. “I think the best decision I ever made, truthfully, was coming to Centerburg, knowing the reputation of kids that I have. I think that I have just been put in a good situation. You look at the kids that I’ve got and they are good kids and I am very proud of what they’ve done. Coach of the Year rewards are more of a reflection of the athletes you have. They have listened to what their coaches have told them and they will only get better as time goes along.”