Mercer Island’s Maggie Baker leads the way at a cross country meet against Lake Washington and Juanita on Sept. 17 at Marymoor Park. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

Mercer Island’s Maggie Baker leads the way at a cross country meet against Lake Washington and Juanita on Sept. 17 at Marymoor Park. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

‘She likes to win and she likes to run hard’

Mercer Island’s Maggie Baker tears up the cross country course.

There she goes, and spectators enjoy watching her run.

When Maggie Baker gets in her groove on the cross country course, she’s a smooth and beautiful runner, according to Mercer Island High head coach Susan Empey.

“She’s been our stallion for four years and I’ll be super sad when she’s gone,” said Empey, following senior Baker’s start-to-finish victory in 19 minutes, 48 seconds during a 5K meet with Lake Washington and Juanita on Sept. 17 with the Cirque du Soleil big top nearby at Marymoor Park.

Baker has qualified for the 3A state cross country meet each year, and on the track side, she was part of two state-winning relays (800 and 1,600) last season. Empey said Baker placed in the mid-20s during state cross country action, and noted that with continued hard work, she can finish higher this season.

“She likes to win and she likes to run hard. She’s mentally very tough. When she decides she wants to do something, she goes after it and is relentless,” Empey said.

Baker’s personal best cross country time is 18:30 and she said that beating that mark is on her list of goals this season. She’d like to achieve a gradual rise in her performance each week.

The Islander senior captain thrives in her leadership role, especially mentoring the younger runners like her freshman sister, Elizabeth. Aside from running and supporting her teammates on the course, Maggie can be found organizing pasta dinners and giving people rides home after practices or meets. She’s thrilled to be part of the family atmosphere.

Cross country running can be grueling while tackling courses filled with twists and turns and hilly terrain, but Baker feels a sense of accomplishment when she finishes a race and can then hang out with her teammates and take a well-deserved rest when she returns home.

“It’s always difficult building up to the races for me, getting stressed out and all the nerves and stuff, but the feeling of being done with the race is what hooked me,” she said.

Baker smiles while noting that she doesn’t like to lose — in life, in running and in school.

On the running front, she elaborates: “When I hear that person on my hip, I’m just thinking, ‘Nope, you’re not gonna get me.’ There’s something inside of me that even if my leg hurts or I’m having a hard time breathing, or I’ve got a headache, I won’t let that person on my hip beat me. So either just keep going, speed up and lose them.”

With the Cirque du Soleil big top in the background, Mercer Island’s Maggie Baker takes charge with Lake Washington and Juanita runners behind her on Sept. 17 at Marymoor Park. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

With the Cirque du Soleil big top in the background, Mercer Island’s Maggie Baker takes charge with Lake Washington and Juanita runners behind her on Sept. 17 at Marymoor Park. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

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