The Boy’s Cross Country team is one of the most consistently successful athletic programs at Southern Regional. Today, we sat down with Scott Baker, longtime coach of the boy’s program. Here is our “Baker’s Dozen”!
When did you start running?
Distance, about 6 years ago. However, in high school, I was a sprinter/pole vaulter.
How did you get your start in coaching?
When I first started teaching, one of the reasons I started teaching was to become a coach as well. I assisted Mr. Speck with the teams and it kind of snowballed from there.
What excites you the most about the team each year?
Watching the team develop and form a bond and transform through June to October.
What do you love about running?
Freedom. There are no strict rules that dictate how you have to run. If you’re out in the woods running on your own, you are challenging yourself. There’s a certain independence and self-challenge element that’s unlike any other sport.
What type of courses do you like to run on?
It depends. Sometimes, if I want a challenge, I like to run on a course with a lot of hills and uneven ground. However, if I were trying to get a faster time, I would prefer to run on a well-groomed flat course. It really all just depends on what my mood is.
A lot of people feel like cross-country is not a “spectator sport”, what is your opinion on this?
It’s never going to be one of those high-flying sports like football or basketball, you’re never going to have 50,000 people at a cross country event. Those that understand the sport can appreciate and follow the sport. I suppose there just isn’t enough exposure or awareness of the sport.
Is there anything that can be done to make it more spectator friendly?
Courses really dictate how spectator friendly a race can be. Places like Ocean County Park are very open and looping, which is very spectator friendly, however this isn’t always the best course for the runners.
Could you explain the brotherhood that has developed through the team over the years?
Every runner is different, and you want every one of your runners to look after one another, but that isn’t something that can be forced. It kind of just happens as the kids work together and develop a mutual respect and compassion for one another.
What has been your favorite moment in your coaching career?
There’s not one specific moment I can pin down, but I think the overall growth of each runner over the course of the season is pretty great to watch.
Historically, Southern has been a very successful program, what do you attribute this to?
The unity and brotherhood we mentioned before. Everyone on the team works their hardest, not for themselves, but for the team.
Is there anything frustrating about your job as a coach?
Having a team of around 50 or so kids is difficult because as a coach, it’s incredibly difficult to spend enough time with each individual kid, and I think that’s the most difficult thing about my job as a coach.
Do you ever listen to music during your run, if so, what kind?
I used to, but I found that I ran well without music, because I focused more on my breathing and footsteps, as odd as that sounds. When you listen to certain kinds of music, the rhythm and tempo of those songs will usually dictate your pace. Back when I did listen to music as I ran, I would listen to Rage Against The Machine, Jack Johnson, Dirty Heads, some Sublime, and some Kings of Leon.
You run with the team, but do you run in races outside of the school environment?
I am actually planning on running the John Entrikin 5K this year, but I don’t really run that many races because I utilize my time training with the team, so I kind of run vicariously through you guys.