By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — Fifteen-year-old Blake Baylor will take on the seemingly impossible task of competing at championship levels in two sports in towns 90 miles apart within 18 hours.
But don’t tell the Lewisburg Area High sophomore — or her mother, Aimee — that Blake can’t do it, because negative thinking is not part of their genetic makeup.
“This is an experiment,” Blake said Wednesday afternoon before practice at Bucknell University’s indoor track facility. “I don’t know how it’s going to go, but I’m very excited.”
Blake will swim tonight in Bloomsburg in the District 4 championships, and then be whisked to State College on Saturday morning for the Pennsylvania Track and Field Coaches Association State Indoor Track Championships, an event open to all Pennsylvania schools.
“I’ll be part of two relay swim events (tonight), and then run in the 800-meter race Saturday,” Blake said with a big smile. “I love doing both. Swimming for me has always been fun, I’ve been swimming since I was little. My true passion is for running.”
She’ll be swimming between 6 and 9 p.m. today, then run around 1 p.m. Saturday, with a little sleep in between.
Blake began running competitively a year ago, her freshman year at Lewisburg Area High, and immediately became a star performer, just missing last year’s state meet.
That helped motivate her to make this year’s track meet.
Blake has never needed motivation to swim, which she’s done relentlessly since she was 8, her mother said.
“Blake was a competitive swimmer even back then and was swimming year-round with the SUNY club swim team, which trains out of Sunbury,” Aimee said. “Blake tried soccer and lasted half a season. She just wasn’t into it. One of her friends was a swimmer and asked her to come out for the team. That started it all.”
When Blake entered ninth grade, she wanted to focus on running year long.
“She has always wanted to be a runner,” said her mother, who coached track and field for 17 years at Lewisburg Area High, and now coaches at Bucknell University. “And now she is, and she loves it.”
If one has been a swimmer all one’s life and then transitions to running, the most difficult adjustment is the toll on one’s feet. Swimmers’ feet, of course, never touch the ground.
“Blake’s legs were very fragile when she began taking up running,” her mother said. “We did not push her too hard. In the beginning she would only run 10 minutes a day, and at most, 20 miles a week.”
By the end of her freshman year track season, Blake managed to run a personal-best 20:17 in cross-country and a 2:22 in the 800-meter.
Now, it’s all about performing in two sports during the same season — and, in this case, the same weekend — that has proved to be the biggest challenge to Blake and her coaches.
“There have been times this year when she had to miss a practice in one sport because she had a meet the next day in the other sport,” Aimee Baylor said.
Aimee Baylor learned about the back-to-back meets about a month ago, so they’ve tried to simulate how Blake’s body will react to the quick turnaround.
“I have been worried about this,” Aimee Baylor admitted. “After a swim meet on Tuesday, I’d make Blake work out on a track Wednesday. So this week she should be comfortably prepared when she swims and then runs.”
When she’s not running, swimming or studying, Blake is a 4.0 student and has maintained distinguished honor roll through middle and high school.