Darrius Baker’s collegiate career ended in the perfect place.
Oregon is synonymous with track and field, being the home of some of the nation’s best runners, and the birthplace of one of the sports legends, Steve Prefontaine. This week, Eugene, Ore., welcomed the NCAA Track and Field Championships, including participating school Savannah State.
Leading the way for the Savannah State Tigers was Baker, a former Alcovy standout and record-holder, and now Savannah State record holder and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion.
The Tigers’ 4x100 team consisting of Baker, freshman Kenshard Hamilton, senior Chazwyn Price and sophomore Cameron Hall ran a time of 4.70, failing to reach the finals but nonetheless making it a successful final season for Alcovy’s 4x100 and 200 record holder.
“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Baker said. “It’s everything you train for.”
Baker and the 4x100 team reached the NCAA Championships last season in Des Moines, Iowa, where the experience was a surreal one, which he was just happy to be a part of. This season year’s championship was a little different for Baker, who knew it was his final chance and had experience under his belt.
“It was a better season for me in my senior year,” Baker said. “I’m glad I ended it as a national qualifier.”
Adding to the memory of a successful senior year was Euguene, Ore., itself, what Baker calls Tracktown, USA. Baker and Savannah State arrived in Eugene, Ore. Tuesday, and immediately knew they were the center of the town’s attention.
“When we go to a restaurant, they know we’re here for the NCAA Championships and they recognize it,” Baker said. “They’ll ask you if you’re here to run and congratulations. You walk around the pancake house with track team and Prefontaine posters, and even our hotel key had the NCAA Championship on it.”
After arriving at the national tournament Tuesday, Baker took the track on Wednesday and prepared for his heat, running after his three teammates. Savannah State was in the middle of the pack, when Hall handed off to Baker. After running the first leg his junior year, and getting moved to anchor with the emergence of Hamilton, Baker knew what to do as the final part of his final race in his final year as an NCAA runner.
“I know when they gave me the last stick, I wanted to be there for my team and finish it out,” Baker said.
Baker may have missed out on the cut for the NCAA finals, but his collegiate career ends with a conference champion and part of the school-record time of 39.93 in the 4x100.
“I gave it all I had and my team gave it all we had,” Baker said.
Although his time at Savannah State is over, Baker will have one more race left in him as he reached a U.S. qualifying time in the 200, and will compete in the U.S. Trials June 19 in Des Moines, Iowa June 19.