Julian Baeza has been a member of SPC state championship teams before. So, running in the SPC state meet was nothing new to him.
However, this weekend, he accomplished a win that wasn't new to him, but it was new for him. Baeza has had many awards podium experiences, but this one was just a little different. He has been a part of two team championships at Austin St. Stephens; His team won SPC in 2017 and 2018 and he was a scoring runner in both team wins.
He has also witnessed St. Stephens teammates win individual championships. In 2016, Crayton Carrozza won state and then again in 2017. Last year, teammate Travis Dowd won the 2018 SPC state title helping to lead the team to the second team title.
On Saturday, Baeza won a SPC individual state championship of his own, becoming the third consecutive individual state champion for St. Stephens taking home the fourth in a row. The individual win is what was different for him.
Being an elite runner isn't something he may have been born to do, but something he has been recently bred to do. Perhaps training with previous individual state champions and a championship team atmosphere have made him into the runner that Baeza has become.
He has had a linear rate of improvement over the last several years. In 2017, Baeza was 18th at state in 17:15 and he was fifth last year in 16:12 before winning this year in 15:28. The 16:12 at the 2018 SPC state meet was a PR for Baeza entering the 2019 season. He has yet to run a 5K race this year over 15:57.
Saturday's race wasn't a for sure win, he had to earn it. Baeza was in a battle with several runners who have been accustomed to leading the SPC conference. University of Texas commit Sam Bass (Ok) was the runner-up last season and Dallas St. Marks twins Pablo Arroyo and Andres Arroyo who have been SPC All-State competitors were all contending for the lead. Baeza pulled away from the pack for the lead in the last 400m.
After years of just being a piece of the puzzle for team championships and watching other teammates get their shining moment, Baeza raced and won one himself. With several opponents who were considered next in line to win, perhaps this win was destined for Baeza.
Julian Baeza's Stats