Tahlequah native Trae Baker has had an exceptionally busy track season for an 11-year-old, and it's also been an exceptionally successful one.
The soon-to-be fifth-grader at Heritage Elementary has been traveling to different parts of the country to compete in some of the most competitive youth track meets in the nation. Trae has had to sacrifice much of his free time this summer to practice and compete with the Jenks America Track Club, but it's the success and thrill of competition that makes it all worth it to him.
"I love to run and I feel blessed," Trae said. "I've been running [competitively] for a two years, but this year I've gotten a lot better at running. I'm getting a lot of [personal records] and just having fun."
To start off his track season, Trae won both the 1,500- and 3,000-meter races in all three northeast track meets he entered, which included the Green Country Invitational, Jenks America Meet and Oklahoma Jaguars Meet.
Trae carried his momentum into the AAU Region 16 track meet in Lawrence, Kan., held June 23-26, and ended up claiming first place again in both the 1,500m and 3,000m races. He won the 1,500m with a time of 5:04 and won the 3,000m with a 10:52. The event included competitors from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and part of Missouri. By finishing No. 1 in both of his events at the regional qualifier, Trae has punched his ticket to the AAU National Track Meet in Houston next month.
Most recently, Trae competed in the USA Track and Field Hershey National Youth Outdoor Championships, held June 28-July 3 in Millersville, Penn. He ended up placing fourth in the nation in his age group in both the 1,500m and 3,000m races, and set personal-best times in the process by coming in at 4:55 in the 1,500m and 10:30 in the 3,000m.
While in Pennsylvania, Trae said he and his family had some free time to go see the sights and enjoy themselves.
"We went to Philadelphia, which was pretty cool," Trae said. "We went and saw the Hershey's Chocolate Factory, too."
Trae has already traveled thousands of miles this summer for track, and he is still geared up for AAU Nationals in Houston, which will be his final meet of the season.
"I like getting to go to all these places and run," Trae said. "I'm excited [to compete in Houston]. I want to go there and get a good pace, try to not let anybody pass me and get medals."