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Baerny driven to run, excel at Kent-Meridian
Competition literally runs in Olivia Baerny’s blood.
Kent-Meridian High School's freshman varsity cross country runner has taken a first-place finish and two second-place finishes in her first five races with the Royals.
With a mother, a two-time All-American collegiate high jumper, and a father, who set distance-running records at K-M, it’s easy to see where she gets her competitive streak.
Todd Baerny’s cross country school record in 1987 lasted 11 years, with additional records in the mile, two mile and 800-meter races. His daughter looks to follow in his footsteps.
“It’s pretty darn cool,” said Todd, referring to her progress. “She’s picked it up and she enjoys it, and she likes the competition as much as I like to compete.”
While he competed in track and field and cross country at Western Washington University, Todd hasn’t returned to the competitive scene and is proud of his daughter for following him.
“It’s exciting being her dad, watching her race,” he said. “She stays right in there, and where a lot of other kids get tired she seems to step it up.”
She’s already taken down several personal records and dogged Mount Rainier senior Jordan McPhee by five seconds at the Curtis Invitational on Oct. 5.
Baerny said she never figured she had running talent until she ran in the second grade, and hasn’t stopped running since. As she moved through later grades, her father would take her out running with him, offering advice. As she competed in athletic events, like the Junior Olympics, she realized her gift and ran track in middle school.
Despite a divorce, her mother, Lisa Kaye, and father come together to help her progress in running. Todd helps her with training and tips, while Lisa goes online to find competition and points out which runners she should try to pace each race.
Baerny didn’t always have her eyes set on cross country until a teammate recommended it during a swim meet, but she was hooked after her first few practices. Beyond the feelings of success and achievement, Baerny simply likes the attitude of the people on the team.
“Even if I wasn’t a very good runner, I probably would still do cross country if I was introduced to it,” she said. “I’ve done track and gymnastics and there were cool people on the team, but nothing in comparison to cross country.”
She describes the team as “a big family.” Their friendly, welcoming nature and good attitude kept Baerny coming back.
But Baerny doesn't let the sport dominate her life, finding interests in other activities such as photography and hiking, or just relaxing and watching the crime drama, "Bones".
For inspiration, she looks to legendary Steve Prefontaine, the University of Oregon runner and 1972 Olympian who, before his life was tragically cut short, held every distance record between 2,000 and 10,000 meters.
"As soon as I found out who he was – my dad told me about him – he's been, like, my hero," she said. “He ran really hard, as fast as he could every race, and gave all he could, and that's inspiring.”
Keeping this in mind, Baerny has already made Oregon her first school choice for its track program, and hopes to continue running professionally.
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift,” Prefontaine once said. True to his words, Baerny finds motivation to try harder through her success.
“I'm good at it, and I was so good at it that I guess there's pressure to stay in it 'cause, like, people will be disappointed if you drop out of it,” she said. “And also I'm good at it, and I like winning, it's really fun. And so things that I'm good at, I usually like.”