“You go to Europe to make money and you’ve got to get off the plane running. You can’t get off the plane and say we’re going to take two meets to get ready. You’ve got to get off the plane and be ready." - Coach Darryl Anderson
Check out the exclusive interview Erik Boal from Dyestat.com did with Ronnie Baker and his Coach Darryl Anderson.
Baker could take a run at all-time records
Two-time NCAA 60-meter champion at TCU has potential to challenge impressive marks by Harden, Greene competing at altitude in Albuquerque
By Erik Boal, DyeStat Editor
For the past two years in college, there wasn’t a faster 60-meter sprinter in the collegiate ranks than Texas Christian University star Ronnie Baker.
Eleven months after winning his second consecutive NCAA Division 1 indoor title, Baker had not only made a seamless transition to professional running, but already elevated himself to the ranks of the world’s elite 60-meter performer entering the USATF Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, N.M.
Competing in the second of three meets on his European tour, Baker clocked a personal-best 6.46 seconds Feb. 10 at the Copernicus Cup in Torun, Poland, moving into a tie for the No. 7 performer in American history and equal to 12th all-time in the world.
“I had questioned it before, because when you’re watching from a college level and you’re watching the pros, they’re in Europe and they just get off the plane and they’re running super fast, and you’re like, ’How did they do that?’” said Baker, who continues to live and train in Fort Worth, Texas.
“When I got over there, it was a big confidence booster. Being over there by myself, I had to really adjust and be comfortable with being on my own seeing that I am a professional now.
“Being able to go over there and run like I did definitely gave me a boost of confidence because now I feel like that’s not going to be a problem for me, that’s not going to be in the back of my mind anymore because I’ve already done it.”
Baker, 23, will not only look to keep his winning streak going following another victory Feb. 18 at the Muller Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham, England, but capture his first national title as a professional Sunday at Albuquerque Convention Center.
Since USATF transitioned from the 55-meter dash to a 60-meter final in 1991, Tim Harden holds the championship record of 6.44 set in 1999. Maurice Greene first established the world all-time standard of 6.39 in 1998 and duplicated it in 2001.
“He’s made a great transition from being a college athlete to being a pro athlete and the trip he made over to Europe and the three races he ran kind of validated that. It let him know he’s in really good shape and his training is going well and just his ability to stand in there on his own and race is second to none,” said TCU director of track and field and cross country Darryl Anderson, who has remained Baker’s coach following his collegiate career.
“You go to Europe to make money and you’ve got to get off the plane running. You can’t get off the plane and say we’re going to take two meets to get ready. You’ve got to get off the plane and be ready.
“He was ready to go over there and do well. At the end of the day, the top three make money, but the top one makes more money. He wanted to go over there and perform well and make some money, so he could pay his rent. It worked out perfectly. If he had a contract, he probably wouldn’t even race indoors.”
After running 6.47 to win last season’s NCAA title – which tied for No. 2 in the world last year – Baker knew he was ready to run a lifetime best during his first professional indoor season, but was pleasantly surprised that moment occurred in Poland, especially after clocking 6.56 in the prelims.
“I felt like I could run in the 6.4s while I was there, but I just didn’t believe I was ready to go that fast. Surprising myself was the most gratifying part,” Baker said. “It was definitely encouraging, especially after I ran a PR earlier than I did last season. It kind of solidified everything that I had been doing in the fall.”
The opportunity to continue to train Baker has been a rewarding experience for Anderson, along with balancing coaching his TCU athletes. It has also allowed Anderson to use Baker as a model for his younger competitors to showcase the commitment and focus that is required to not only be a professional, but excel on an international stage.
“Even in college he was very consistent in his training. But In college it can be a 2 o'clock to 5 o'clock arrangement. When you talk about being at the next level or being a professional, it becomes a 24-hour arrangement,” Anderson said. “For me it’s refreshing because I go out with the 17-, 18- to 21-year-old guys, where you are trying to convince them it’s not a two-hour or three-hour arrangement and then I can talk to him and he gets it that you’ve got to do this all the time.
“He’s just built for this. He takes to it and accepts everything and he moves forward and doesn’t get stressed out about it.”
For Baker, the biggest emphasis since turning pro has been on staying healthy, regularly visiting with athletic trainer Benny Vaughn in Fort Worth to remain committed to stretching and recovery in order to continue to train at an elite level.
“In college, you have like a ‘loose’ kind of term for taking care of your body. You go in and see the trainers for a couple of minutes and say, ‘Can you just flush me out?’ and then it's like ‘OK, I took care of my body today,’” Baker said. “It goes to a whole ‘nother level when you get to the next level. That’s been a big key in having me be consistent at practice is just taking care of my body. The definition of that has changed for me for sure.”
Despite his global standing, Baker’s definition of success hasn’t changed as a professional. His focus remains on quality workouts and putting all aspects of Anderson’s training together in order to continue development and remain on his recent run of success.
“I’m a day-to-day practice guy. If his practices are consistent, then I don’t worry about the races because I know they’re going to come together,” Anderson said. “I call it, ‘being at the lab,’ making sure we’re working on this element and that element. We came back from Europe and we’ve got some other things to work on now and that’s the beauty for him is to keep progressing to the next thing to work on.”
That progress might propel Baker to a meet record or all-time world best Sunday, but just like the past two years at the NCAA finals, being a national champion is what matters most to him.
“At the end of the day, you just want to come and win the race,” Baker said. “I had seen Maurice Greene’s race a bunch of times, but I hadn’t really thought about that too much. The record has never really been on my mind. We’ve kind of prefaced it before that I’ve run 6.4, so the next place to go is 6.3 and that’s what you want to be looking at, but we’ve never really focused on it. That’s never been the goal.”
The optimistic Anderson knows that if Baker can put all three phases of his race together, he could be the athlete most capable of challenging Greene’s record, Sunday or in the near future.
“You’re seven-hundredths away from being the fastest guy ever, so why not? In the big scheme of things, from 6.46 to 6.39, how big of a space is that between him and Greene at this point? That’s not very far. You’re not even talking about a body length at this point,” Anderson said.
“But at the end of the day, the bottom line is you don’t chase times. You want to execute the race and if you execute the race and when you look up at the clock, it will take care of you. If you don’t execute the race and look up at the clock, there’s no point looking up at it. Let the race take care of the time, don’t go into it with this wish list. That’s the way we look at it.”
Read more: DyeStat.com - News - Ronnie Baker Enters USATF Indoor Championships On A Roll