Saddleback's Teddy Baker a Barometer for Success : The Weather Has Been Sunny for Roadrunners

Times Staff Writer

Get one thing straight. Saddleback High School sprinter Teddy Baker is not a meteorologist. Weather for him is what he runs through at a high rate of speed--perhaps faster than any prep athlete in Orange County.

But it's uncanny how Baker acts as a barometer of his team's fortunes. When he feels well and performs well, the team wins. So now that the senior says this is going to be his best year ever, it's been one sunny day after another at the Roadrunner track.

Saddleback has won all three of its dual meets this season, and Coach Jim Knapp counts more than 58 medals his athletes have won at invitationals this year.

"I have a really good feeling about this season," Baker said after a recent practice. "Last year, my legs were tired at the end of the season and I didn't run as well as I could have.

"I was running in too many meets back-to-back. But I didn't mind because I ran for points to help the team. Now, I am stronger and I'm improved technically. My start has always been the best part of my race, but now I'm working on my finish. I'm learning to relax."

What Baker has to improve upon is last year's first-place finish in the Southern Section 3-A championships at 100 meters and a second in the 200.

He has already come close to his personal best in the 100 (10.69) with a 10.71 two weeks ago at the Irvine Invitational. At that meet, he won the 100 and was second in the 200 to friendly rival Chip Rish of Marina.

Baker, in his effusive and warm manner, said Rish motivates him. Baker has goals of running under 10.5 for the 100 and 21.5 for the 200 this season.

He hopes to use those times to impress college coaches. With the success of his track career, Baker is considering abandoning football, which he has played for nearly twice as many years as run track. The 5-foot 9-inch Baker was an all-Sea View League defensive back this season. He was also a running back for the Roadrunners.

"I think football has made me a lot stronger," Baker said. "My legs got stronger carrying all those guys on my back. I want to play football in college, but I'm not going to get bigger. Also, my parents would like to see me concentrate on track."

Knapp believes that Baker would excel at whatever sport he chooses.

"Teddy has just got the greatest attitude of any kid I've worked with in years," Knapp said. "If I asked him to sweat blood, he would. He's that much in love with the sport. He has a great deal of natural ability and he works very hard."

Baker is carrying on a tradition of sprinting excellence at Saddleback. It has been largely the team's sprinters who have brought the Roadrunners four county and six league championships.

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