A champion finds his place at SOU

Southern Oregon sprinter Antwun Baker studies recreation management at SOU and became the Cascade Conference champion in both the 100 and 200-meters last week.

Baker, a 21-year-old junior, was born in Fresno, Calif. on Jan. 3, 1998, becoming the fifth of what would be six brothers and four sisters.

The game of football introduced Baker to the speed that spawned a track career in the most unlikely way in his neighborhood before attending North Hollywood High School.

"We use to race on the street for money," Baker said. "One day a teacher asked me if I wanted to run track."

Baker did, and soon after earned all-state honors, became a Los Angeles city finalist and gained multiple league championships.

"I just grew older from some of my friends in trouble to stay off those streets to work to become a professional," Baker said. "I've seen stuff I thought I'd never see and as an individual I was able to stay off of the streets."

The track, football, and Baker's family unity kept him out of trouble and off the streets growing up. Things have certainly changed for Baker on the track, but off it he is remembers the hard knocks and support of his healthy family.

"I do it all for my family, I had a family of ten and we had hard times growing up. I just knew we were always taken care of," said Baker of his drive and recent success.

Baker recalls one major difference from high school track to his present status as a two-event conference champion.

"Before track in high school I would be running across the street to Taco Bell when practice started at 3:30 p.m.," Baker said.

At SOU the practices are much different for Baker. He works hard every chance he gets and is always looking to compete at that next level.

"I feel like I am just starting to open it up and run," Baker said. "I know I can feel the pain when I'm done working out. It's something that will push me too the next level."

He gets his chance at the next level of competition at the NAIA National Championships next week, and says he's ready for the challenge.

"I like the competitive edge and being the best I can be while staying fit," said Baker of how he has been drawn to the track. "I want to see how far track can take me."

Baker has an NAIA qualifier time of 10.75 seconds in the 100 and will be competing at his first national collegiate track meet.

"I'm going in as an underdog I think," Baker said. "I'm going in like every race and will do what I can do, trust what I've been doing all season."

The SOU coaching staff and teammates are an extended family, says Baker, and his family along with the track team have been the major contributors to his inspiration.

"This is the first (track) team I've been around that is really fun and that they enjoy," Baker said. "Track is a big part of my family. I represent them."

Baker is looking forward to nationals, Thursday through Saturday at Ralph Korte Stadium in Edwardsville, Ill.

"His start is phenomenal, his first 60 meters is really good," said SOU head coach Brent Erickson. "Technically he's getting better at the end of the race."

This summer Baker will head back to southern California to spend time with his family. The Baker family plan to take a road trip across the country to New York, something they often do as a family during the summer.

"My family is my inspiration," said Baker. "If I'm successful, my family is successful."

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