Hitting her stride down the stretch

Having developed into one of the area's top hurdlers and sprinters, Kristin Baxivanos of Fallston looks to put an exclamation point on her high school career with a state title.

May 24, 2006|By JEFF SEIDEL | JEFF SEIDEL,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Kristin Baxivanos literally ran into trouble late in the 100-meter hurdles at the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference track and field meet.

The Fallston senior held the lead, but she hit the top of the eighth hurdle instead of clearing it. Baxivanos staggered and stumbled and nearly fell before regaining her balance and winning the race.

"A lot of kids less experienced would have fallen and gone down," Fallston girls coach Jimmy Grant said. "That's why she's so good."

It also typifies the kind of senior season Baxivanos has had.

After making steady improvement in her first three years, Baxivanos has blossomed into one of the area's top hurdlers and sprinters. Baxivanos, 5 feet 6, went into last weekend's regional meet unbeaten in the 100-meter dash and the 100 hurdles.

Her only loss in the 300 intermediate hurdles came at the UCBAC meet, where she finished second. In that race, Baxivanos had to run from finishing the long jump right to the starting blocks for the hurdles.

Baxivanos' times have greatly improved this season. Her personal best in the 300 hurdles dropped from 48.5 seconds last year to 46.2 this spring. She broke the county record in the 100 hurdles, winning the UCBAC title in 15.0. Her personal best had been 15.5, which she did just a week before.

"It just all came together this year," said Baxivanos, who is headed to Yale in the fall. "My team has been a big support, and my parents have been a big support. I've tried to push myself in practice, knowing that my times have gotten better, and [the fact] that I've just pushed myself as far as I could is more valuable than any state medal."

Baxivanos will end her varsity career this weekend at the state championship meet at Morgan State. She has won six county and two regional crowns and hopes to add a state title.

Grant said he'll remember her drive and toughness, especially in situations like the one where she nearly fell in the UCBAC meet.

Baxivanos faced a similar challenge in the 2005 indoor regional meet. She was devastated after falling in the 55 hurdles and had just five minutes to compose herself before the 55 dash.

She was able to get it together and qualify for the state meet. Baxivanos then finished third to help the Cougars win the state championship.

"Kristin has run eight seasons for us, and she's kind of been the face of our track program for the last couple of years," Grant said. "Not only was she a great runner, but she's extremely mentally tough, and that does spill over to the rest of us."

That toughness has been noticed by the competition.

"The thing I like about her is nothing seems to faze her," C. Milton Wright coach Donnie Mickey said. "It's a huge advantage because people will tell you that track and field is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. That spills over into the other kids on her team, and they stay calm."

Baxivanos doesn't set a tone only by example. She has been a co-captain with Stephanie Taylor, and Grant said she hasn't been afraid to call out someone who could've been working harder.

She also has tried to keep her teammates loose.

"Even though track is an individual sport, it's such a team [sport] also," Baxivanos said. "In the end, my teammates aren't going to remember me for medals, but they're going to remember me for singing goofy songs. I'm a goofball."

It isn't surprising that Baxivanos got into track. Her parents, Marie and Vince, met while running for Perry Hall in the late 1970s, and Vince is the Fallston sprints coach.

Baxivanos said her parents didn't push her into the sport, however. She joined the Harford Track Club at 12, trying a number of different events before eventually settling on sprints, hurdles and some field events.

Her father has watched her development and sees the difference in her this year.

"She's learning how to spring over the hurdles and ignore them," he said. "That's been a big change. Running the hurdles is a very technical thing, and she's put in a lot of practice in a lot of races. She's coming into her own."

Baxivanos hopes her track success continues next year at Yale. She'll be studying English and political science, with a goal to move on to law school.

"She tries her best to achieve goals," Vince Baxivanos said. "If she does, great, but if she doesn't, she rests comfortably knowing that she put forth her best effort."

Baxivanos also uses her sense of humor to help keep things in perspective. She giggled when asked about hitting the hurdle at the UCBAC meet.

"Oh, I just smacked into that thing," she said with laugh. "I don't remember too much else, but I was able to keep my balance."

And win the race.

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