Kadecia Baird will compete at the highest level of track and field at International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in Moscow to cap to her tremendous senior year at Medgar Evers.
The Nebraska-bound Baird, who runs for her native country of Guyana, won the 400 meters at the Central American and Caribbean Senior Athletics Championship in Mexico in July in a season-best time of 51.32. That time booked the 18-year-old a trip to the world championships beginning on Aug. 10 and a chance to run against the world’s best. It is just another step in her drive to represent Guyana in the 2014 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“It helps me understand that if I make it to the Olympics, who I have to compete against and what I have to do when I go to the national level,” Baird said.
She has set a few goals for herself in Moscow. Baird wants to try to make it to the final and run a time under 51 seconds. Medgar Evers coach Shaun Dietz says Baird is at the point where she can expect a low time in every race, but she has yet to really arrive on the national scene. That doesn’t mean she can’t hold her own.
“I can see where she can step up and run with anybody right now,” Dietz said.
Baird is growing more comfortable competing in international tournaments, doing so for the fifth time in her career when she hits the track in Moscow. Taking on older and more experienced runners has brought out the best in her, says her former coach. She can’t simply coast to wins like she often could in high school.
“When she goes overseas she knows there is no chance you can be average, even for a second. You have to be above average,” Dietz said. “That she’s responded too very well.”
Being pushed constantly is one of the biggest reason’s Baird chose Nebraska, where fellow Medgar coach Nicola Martel attended. Baird was also looking for an environment where she won’t get lost amongst other top runners. She feels she has a support system there and Martel can easily check in on her.
“I’ll have people helping me and supporting me and understand the training that I need,” Baird said. “I didn’t want to go to one of those big schools where they have five Kadecia’s and it would be hard for them to pay attention to me.”
It’s hard not to notice her. Baird was arguably the best high school sprinter in the country last season. She led Medgar Evers to its first Public School Athletic League city title during the outdoor season, winning three events. Baird added an international gold in July and now gets to compete on one of track’s biggest stages.
Even after all she’s accomplished, it hasn’t yet sunk in for Baird exactly how far she’s gotten.
“I don’t think I’m really excited yet until I get there and actually start to compete, and then I am going to be actually excited,” Baird said.
Reach reporter Joseph Staszewski at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter @cng_staszewski.