Spotlights

From last to first: A BCPS runner’s path to victory

06/13/2017

From last to first: A BCPS runner’s path to victory
Photo by John Roemer

When Taylor Baranoski wins a race, it often comes as little surprise.
 
“People look at me as one of the best distance runners in state,” the 2017 graduate of Eastern Technical High School said.
 
And he’s right: Last year alone, Baranoski placed first in 22 of the 33 track and cross-country events he competed in. In eight of those races, he also set personal records (PR).
 
But Baranoski’s performance hasn’t always been so strong. Just two years ago, he finished last at the Maryland State Track and Field championships.

A rough start

In May 2015, Baranoski stepped into Morgan State University’s Hughes Stadium feeling nervous. In 1,600-meter races that season, his performance had been inconsistent. While he finished first in one race, he placed fourth and seventh in two others. He also had competed only against runners in and around Baltimore County.
 
“At this point in my career, I had never been in a race with this many competitive people,” Baranoski said, looking back.
 
But aside from the 186 schools participating in competitions that day, Baranoski faced other challenges, too. For one, it was almost summer, and the temperature inside the stadium was rising each hour. Baranoski was also recovering from a cold, which made breathing difficult.
 
Still, he decided to run, anyway. Taking his spot for the 1,600-meter run, Baranoski thought about the obstacles confronting him as he waited for the signal to go.
 
“It was such a hot day, and after being sick for the week leading up to it, I had psyched myself out mentally,” Baranoski said. “I pretty much ruled out winning before the race even started.”
 
The prospect of winning didn’t seem any closer after the first lap, either. Falling behind his 17 competitors one at a time, Baranoski ultimately finished in last place after four minutes and 55.7 seconds. 

A new drive

Taylor Baranoski
Photo by John Roemer

As disappointing as Baranoski’s loss was, however, it didn’t defeat him. Instead, it motivated him.
 
“Coming into my junior year of indoor track, I had this hunger to redeem and prove myself for what happened last year at the state championships,” Baranoski said.
 
Acting on that hunger, Baranoski started going on short runs two weeks before the season began. He also added weekend runs to his training schedule. But after clocking in at 5:03.2 in his first 1,600-meter race, Baranoski realized he needed help. So he turned to one of his teammates, senior Tucker Deacon.
 
Like Baranoski, Deacon had been running for the Eastern Tech Mavericks since his freshman year. While on the team, Deacon had cut nearly a minute and a half from his 1,600-meter time, making him not only an inspiring friend but a viable mentor, as well. With Deacon, Baranoski began running intervals with increasingly shorter recovery periods between them.

“Taylor was willing to work very hard to see results,” Deacon said. “He was committed to finding new workouts in order to refine his speed and endurance.”

According to Baranoski, his performance improved immediately, thanks to Deacon’s help.
 
“I hit my sophomore mile PR in indoors,” he said. “Then, an invitational came up, and I got a huge breakaway in the 800.”
 
As Baranoski continued to work with Deacon, he added other exercises, like strides and 12-mile runs on the weekends, to his training. Toward the end of the 2016 spring season, he said, “Everything started to come together.”

A second try

Taylor Baranoski
Photo by John Roemer

When Baranoski returned to Hughes Stadium for the 2016 Maryland State Track and Field championships, he wasn’t nervous, as he had been the first time. The weather was hot – and, perhaps, even hotter than it was the year before – but Baranoski didn’t mind.
 
Down on the track, Baranoski reviewed his strategy a few minutes before the 1,600-meter race. He would sit back for the first 1,200 meters and then kick with 400 to go. If he waited any longer than that, Baranoski knew he’d lose the race.
 
“One of my other competitors had amazing foot speed,” he said. “But I was determined to win. The whole spring season, I was focused on this race.”
 
As confident as Baranoski was going into the race, however, he soon realized his plan wouldn’t work. Like him, Baranoski’s competitors also started off slow to save their energy for the end. With time – and meters – running out, Baranoski had to come up with another plan.

“I had quite a bit of adrenaline,” he said. “So I decided to push the pace after 800.”
 
That decision helped Baranoski take the lead for the next 500 meters. But in the last 300, two of Baranoski’s competitors caught up with him. The three were neck and neck until Baranoski pushed ahead.
 
“I gave it everything,” he said. “With 100 meters left of the race, I looked back and realized I was going to win.”
 
A few seconds later, he did. Baranoski crossed the finish line in 4:23.99. He also posted a PR.
 
“It was a great feeling knowing that all the work I had put in had paid off,” he said.

An ongoing passion

Since winning the statewide 1,600-meter race nearly a year ago, Baranoski has continued to rack up victories. Running cross-country for the first time this past fall, he finished first against 172 competitors in the 3-mile state championships. Then, in the winter, he clocked the fastest 800- and 1,600-meter times at the Maryland State Indoor Track championships. And, this past spring, he set PRs in the outdoor 1-mile and 3,200-meter runs.
 
But, despite his outgoing nature, Baranoski doesn’t brag about his successes.
 
“Taylor is a little shy when it comes to these things,” Baranoski’s coach, Dave Harrison, said. He prefers to talk about his goals instead.
 
In the fall, Baranoski hopes to continue building his résumé by studying and running cross-country and track at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
 
“I want to become an electrical engineer,” he said. “As far as running, I would like to see how close, or if, I can break four minutes in the mile.”

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