Feb. 17, 2013
This past Saturday at the Husky Classic, sophomore Baylee Mires rolled to a big career-best time of 2:06.73 in the 800-meters, just missing All-American Amanda Miller's indoor school record by .04 seconds. Mires came to UW from Mead High School in Spokane, where she dominated the mid-distance events as a prep, winning several state titles. Last year as a freshman, Mires was the 800-meter leg on the Husky distance medley relay, which captured the national title at the NCAA Indoor Championships just a couple months into Mires' college career. Mires talked to GoHuskies.com in the Dempsey this week about breaking through her freshman year plateau, winning an NCAA title, and her love for her hometown.
GoHuskies.com: So this past Saturday you had a big PR, running 2:06.73 to just miss the school record. How did you feel after the race?
Baylee Mires: I think it was definitely my best performance thus far. I think I was running 2:09 consistently last year, and Metcalf said I ran 2:07 in the DMR but I think he was just lying (laughs) I don't think it was real. But that was all I could do. So finally to be capable of running 2:06 was really satisfying and exciting. Nice to know that I'm moving forward after I felt that last season was kind of a plateau. It just means that everything is functioning properly and it can only get faster.
GH: It seems like 2:06 is a big marker for 800-meter runners.
BM: Yeah, the first step is 2:10, and then getting under 2:10 for the first time is a big thing, and I haven't run an 800 for the past year that hasn't been under 2:10. Then it's getting under 2:08, and then it's getting under 2:06, so you have these two second increments that are important.
GH: When you saw your time, did you know how close it was to the school record?
BM: I knew it was going to be close, because I remembered in our lockerroom we have all the pictures of the school record-holders lined up and I remember seeing Katie Follett's picture, she has the outdoor record. So I had 2:06 sort of in my head but I didn't know what came afterwards. When I crossed the line I wasn't really thinking until Metcalf came up to me and said "I think that's the school record" and then I got excited and thought maybe it is! It turned out it wasn't but it's okay, it was so close and it's good to be number two on the list and I'm sure I'm going to get it one of these days.
GH: I hear that you had called Coach Metcalf earlier in the week and asked him if you could get moved from the open heats to the invitational heat?
BM: It was pretty funny, because I saw the list, and prior to seeing it I thought I was going to be put in the Invite, so I was talking to Christine Babcock earlier in the day and I was like, "yeah, I'm in the Invite," and she said, "no you're not, but that's probably good for you." And in my head I thought "maybe..." but then I started thinking, no, I wanted to be in the Invite, and it was just one of those stupid things where after I asked Metcalf I started feeling like maybe I shouldn't have done that. You start doubting yourself. I called my mom and she said, "yeah, you should ask him," and she doesn't know very much about track but for her to say that for some reason gave me this confidence. I don't know it was probably pretty stupid (laughs). Greg said he'd think about it and then called me that night and said "welcome to the big leagues!"
GH: Did that make you feel more pressure to perform well after your request?
BM: Once I realized, I looked at my heat and saw all these really good girls, I thought, "Oh, god." Claudia Francis, at Pac-12s last year I thought I could hang with her, and she pulled through the first 200 in like 28 seconds, which is pretty fast, and I just died. She kicked my butt and so did a girl from Stanford, so it was pretty daunting after he said I was in it, because I didn't really think it was going to happen. I thought these girls are fast and I'm number nine and standing on the far outside, oh gosh! Then I saw my dad and he was like don't think about it, and it wasn't that bad after the race finally started.
GH: Does your family make it out to a lot of the meets?
BM: They're from Spokane so they come over every race, they love track. My dad's a high school track coach too, so they're all about it. They drag my little 13 year old brother along with them, and he wears all purple everything, he's so funny. He's stoked to be around here but he gets tired of the Baylee Parade half the time (laughs).
GH: What was it like having your dad as the track coach in high school?
BM: My dad was the boys coach, so people usually think he was my coach, but he did a very good job of letting my coach, Dori Robertson, be my coach and we would talk about him being like my mental coach. I'd come home and complain and say this was hurting or something and he would coach me up. Most people expect your dad to be really pressuring or in your life too much, but him and my mom are my best friends. They know when I fail on the track that I'm going to beat myself up more than anyone, so it was nice to have him as a coach because he would understand what was happening and most kids who are athletes into running sometimes their parents don't quite get it. They always understood completely and fully supported me no matter what I would do.
GH: When did you first get involved in track?
BM: When I was growing up I did everything. I did karate and gymnastics, I was really into basketball and soccer for a long time. I would do summer track probably since third or fourth grade. I wouldn't even do distance events, I would do hurdles and long jump and pole vault, I did the heptathlon because my dad was a high jumper and hurdler in college. One year maybe fifth grade summer, I thought I was really cool for doing the heptathlon, but I lost every event except the 800-meters, so I thought well I guess this might be my event. So I started doing the 800 and the mile and I think in sixth grade I made it to nationals, and I actually ran against Katie Flood. I have an awesome picture from I think Baltimore of USA Juniors where Katie Flood was getting second and I got fifth. I never took it super seriously because my parents just wanted me to have fun, so that's made me love it ever since.
GH: So after your big PR last week, does it change any of the goals you had for this season?
BM: I mean I know I'm capable of running faster than 2:06, because in my head I think I can compete with these girls on a national level. Right now I'm 18th on the list as of this weekend, and 16 get to the big show (NCAA Indoors). So my goal right now is to make it, I know it's going to be hard because everyone's going to be running really fast in two weeks, but to get a shot has become more real. I've always envisioned in my head going to nationals in the DMR and the 800, but to see that and see my name actually in contention with these girl, it opens your eyes like "okay, I can do this, it's not just wishful thinking." And it's still a dream to be there, but it opens my eyes to that and also to know that I was .04 off the school record, makes me think I'm going to get that. Also I'm thinking about how if I'm a sophomore running 2:06 what can I do as a junior, and a senior. Also, not only is my 800 going to get better, but I'm also going to be better in the mile. I was more of a miler in high school, so it's interesting that I've been developing the 800 first and then I'll develop the mile, and who knows what comes after that, hopefully cross country comes.
GH: Is making it out onto the cross country course a goal for you? Because you were a strong cross country runner in high school as well.
BM: Yeah, I was okay (laughs). I really am looking forward to it, though, because last year coming in I wasn't very focused. I couldn't focus for two minutes, which is strange. Now I feel like when I step on the track, I've really developed my focus. That 800 where I ran 2:06, I focused for about 2:03 of that, the last three seconds was really hard, but slowly being able to focus more is a huge deal, because then I can focus longer in the mile, and when it comes to cross country I'll get better. In cross country I have a harder time sticking my nose in it and going. Three-point-whatever miles, that's a long ways, and it amazes me how good our girls are, and it's nice to be with those girls who can run that far and focus that long. I redshirted freshman year and this last year I kind of had an injury, so I'm hoping that I can run it this next year, because I know it will make me better on the track.
GH: So last year you come in and just a couple months into your track career, you win an NCAA title on the DMR. What was that experience like?
BM: Crazy, I mean I redshirted cross, and I came in here and they said I was running on the DMR, and at that point I was like, "What is that? I don't even know what's happening." I was on a DMR one time as a freshman in high school, at a meet of champions, and Jordan Carlson was on it with me because she was from Spokane. So my freshman year I step on the track and it's Jordan Carlson again, and I had only run a couple races and suddenly we're in Idaho, and I started to realize that, whoa, this is actually happening. Getting on the track and being scared beyond belief, I was so nervous, and to take that and say okay, I'm competing on a national level, I can do this, built a lot of confidence into this season. It was a shock to know that we won it. Even when I had the award in my hand, I still couldn't believe it. How does that happen? You run a couple races and suddenly you're a national champion, or a fourth of a national champion. I'm hoping we can get another shot at it this year, I'm hoping we can come together as a team.
GH: You've got a bit of a signature style choice with your high knee socks. When did you start that habit?
BM: (laughs) Yeah, I think it became a habit in basketball, I always wore high socks, I was really weird. I would only wear them in basketball. We used to have Tall Sock Monday or Tuesday but I just decided to start wearing them every day, I just like it.
GH: Talking a bit about classes, what have been some of the best classes you've taken so far here?
BM: I took anthropology of sports with Holly Barker, and she's amazing, that's probably been my favorite class. I was going the environmental route for a while, so I took some of those classes, but I think I'm going to change to Early Childhood & Family Studies so I can maybe be an elementary school teacher, which I would love. So I'm going to start taking some classes there and next year I get to work with preschools, which I'm so excited about. I babysit for Metcalf's daughter and the soccer coach's daughter so I think it will be a good fit. I'm also minoring in sign language, which I love. I started that back in elementary school with my sister. I switched to Spanish in high school, but when I got to college I got back into it and have kept going and really enjoy it.
GH: Seen any good movies lately?
BM: My family is so into movies, we go to movies all the time. What was that movie, the animated one ... Rise of the Guardians? It's a little kid movie but it's my favorite right now, which is sad. And in my house, I live with five girls, and I swear we've watched Mean Girls at least a hundred times this year. It's so relevant to our situation.
GH: Anything else you like to do in your spare time?
BM: I do a lot of cooking for my roommates. I just recently got a crock pot which makes me really excited. Joelle (Amaral), she lives with me, we try to find things that relieve our stress, like yesterday we decided to go swimming so we went to the IMA and were jumping off the diving board and annoying everybody, so I kind of feel bad about that.
GH: What do you miss most about Spokane?
BM: See, I love Spokane. Everyone thinks it's this little town, but it's big and I love it! I guess I like Spokane because everybody's so close. Like Katie Knight, who's coming here, I would see her all the time even though she went to another school, and we would hang out and the running community there is so close. I work at a running store in Spokane and everybody's so cool. Maddie Meyers actually came over in the summer and we did this weird six-girl relay up this mountain in Spokane. Probably the thing I miss most is my family, though, we're really close. Luckily they get over here all the time, because my mom hates the snow so she thinks it's a vacation coming to Seattle. It was a great place to grow up and I love going back for the summers.