Baxter leaves high standard for Eagles to follow

Brenda Baxter is willing to go the distance in her quest for athletic excellence — whether that means training locally or on another continent.

After all, the Klahowya senior openly will admit that her life revolves around sports, and right now, track is the name of her game.

“I like track because it’s an independent sport,” she said. “I’m not really a person who accepts not winning. My life pretty much revolves around sports. I think for me, athletics has forced me to do better.”

In her quest to set more records — she already holds school records in the 100, 200 and 400 meters — Baxter has upped her training to include regular workouts at Body Link, a fitness program in Silverdale that helps build athletes‚ speed and endurance.

“They have different sessions where they put you on speed treadmills and things that get your body used to speed and acceleration,” she said. “They’ve taught me a lot about my form. They watch you run and show you things that you need to do. It’s torture, but it’s fun.”

But Baxter’s training doesn’t stay within county limits — she has laced up her running shoes in Europe, too.

In summer 2003, Baxter went to Europe as a member of the International Sports Tourists‚ team from the United States. College and professional coaches staffed the 18-day trip, which consisted of practices and international competitions.

“They knew a lot about running style and were able to change my running form,” Baxter said, adding that several coaches encouraged her to start running the 800 meters. “I learned a lot of stuff I didn’t know about; it’s something I would want to do again.”

Track season this year also provided Baxter with an opportunity to learn things she didn’t know before — especially regarding the team’s capability. She said she didn’t know what to expect or with whom she would be running when the track team converged this spring.

“I didn’t know how much potential we had,” she said. “This probably is the best year for Klahowya track that I can remember. The past few years were frustrating because we didn’t have many numbers.”

Klahowya’s track coach David Hazelquist said he has been impressed with Baxter’s stamina and efficiency over the years.

“She’s very goal oriented,” he said. “She’s probably the most efficient runner I’ve ever coached because she perseveres in her efforts and doesn’t quit. She’s very dedicated to doing the best she can do.

“She probably could have set records in the field events, but we wanted to keep her strong for the distance events.”

Right now, Baxter is focusing on getting strong for the rest of the season — she injured her left hamstring at the Shelton Invite earlier this month while running a 100-meter race.

“It kind of gave out on me,” she said. “I hadn’t had any problems with it in the past. I don’t know what happened.”

Baxter rested her hamstring for a couple weeks and was on the sidelines when the Eagles clinched the Nisqually League title.

On Wednesday she qualified for the finals in the 400 at the West Central District Class 2A meet. But in the straight of the 200 prelims, her hamstring again failed her, ending the season prematurely.

“Our girls were in line to win the meet, but these things happen,” Hazelquist said. “Brenda will make something positive happen out of this adversity.”

Baxter was adamant about persevering through the pain to be in the district race. After all, having played on the Eagles’ basketball team this season, finishing with a painful 1-19 record, she is used to facing adversity.

“It probably was one of the most difficult seasons I’ve had, being a senior and a captain. I just tried to play my game. We struggled with dedication and had a lot of people who just didn’t want to be there. We would play for a half and didn’t know what happened in the other half.

“I would liked to have gone further. Basketball is my favorite sport.”

Hazelquist said Baxter’s attitude makes her a good role model for her teammates.

“She is not one that gets intimidated by competitors. She’s always willing to take on the challenges that the other teams have set for her and is a very fierce competitor.”

Now Baxter is focused on competing in the future. She said that although she received several letters from colleges around the nation, she has committed to the University of Washington, where she hopes to continue running.

“I would like to run track in college,” she said. “I’ve committed to UW right now and (Washington State University) is second. They both told me to keep improving my times.”

There is another reason why Baxter, who carries a 3.8 grade-point average, plans to become a Husky — and she has a childhood toy to thank for her intended career path.

“I’ve always been interested in architecture; that’s why I chose UW,” she said, adding that she is taking a class at Klahowya where students design building plans. “Since childhood, I’ve liked it. I guess Legos started it.

“I’ve learned to do a lot of hands-on work working with my family. We totally remodeled my grandmother’s house in Bremerton.”

Hazelquist said he thinks Baxter will have no problemwith the transition to academics and athletics at the collegiate level.

“She’s not only a great athlete, but a strong student as well,” he said. “She’s kept her doors open for the future. Her primary strength is academics and she’s going to be able to handle both that and athletics for the next four years wherever she goes to school.”

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