The Post-Journal

Karen Bakewell Preparing For NCAAs

Jogging slowly around the track at Washington School earlier this week, Karen Bakewell looked like any other girl enjoying a sunny, spring day.

But as she rounded the turn, the 19-year-old picked up the pace and sprinted down the straightaway, her arms pumping the air and her feet pounding the cinder track.

For Bakewell, a freshman at Miami (Ohio) University, running is not something she does on a casual basis. Not when you’re training for the NCAA Division 1 Championships in Eugene, Ore., May 28-June 2.

Bakewell, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gene Bakewell of 21 Clyde Ave., Jamestown, was in town for a couple of days working out before returning to Oxford, Ohio, to make last-minute preparations for the nationals.

As a freshman, Bakewell has made quite a name for herself, establishing school indoor records in the 400 meters – an event in which she also holds the Mid-American Conference record – the 200 meters, the 300 meters, the 55 meters and the 300 yard dash and outdoor records in the 100, 200, and 300 meter dashes.

It’s the 400 meter dash, where she ran a 53.58 last weekend at the MAC Outdoor Championships in Ypsilanti, Mich., that she hopes will carry her to All-American status.

But Bakewell has another goal in mind besides the NCAAs; the Olympic Trials.

Despite being only a freshman, she is just shy of the Olympic Trials’ standard of 53.40. Bakewell is confidant that she can make that time.

“It’s really hard to drop any amount of time, but since I’m really good under pressure, I think I can do it,” Bakewell said.

Pressure. The thought of that word makes some athletes uncomfortable, but Bakewell’s coach at Miami, Joselyn Williams, said in a telephone interview this week that Bakewell is capable of handling it.

“She does thrive on it,” Williams says. “She knows what she has to do because we talk about it. She thrives on competition. That’s why I think she’ll do well at the NCAAs.”

“I like the competition,” Bakewell said. “I guess it gets my adrenaline flowing. I get psyched, When I think about it (the race) it helps me prepare for the race.”

If Bakewell can lower her 400 time from 53.58 to 53.40 at Eugene, she will qualify for the Olympic Trials in Los Angeles, June 22-24.

Another local runner in the 400, Melody Prunty, will also be at Los Angeles, competing in the Junior Nationals.

Williams estimated that there will be between 15 and 20 entrants in the 400 in Eugene.

They’ll all be running from 50 (seconds) down to 53 (seconds) so she’ll have her work cut out for her. She’ll have a lot of things to acclimate herself to. That’s why we’re going early.”

The trip to Eugene is a sweet one for Bakewell because she just missed – by eight-tenths of a second – of going to the indoor nationals this year.

But despite being disappointed, she still set a conference record running a 55.4, becoming the first woman in Miami University history to win a conference championship.

Did Williams expect Bakewell to do so well so fast?

“Basically, yes,” Williams said. “Her talent and her potential is something you could see from the beginning. It was just a matter of how far she could go.”

Bakewell, who first realized she had a talent for running in the sixth grade, ran track in high school (see below) and has been active in the Chautauqua Striders for the last four years.


Seventh Place: 200-meter dash, New York State Championships, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Seventh Place: 200-meters dash and 100-meter dash, Track & Field Association Nationals, St. Louis, MO
Third Place: 200-meter dash, Empire State Games, Syracuse, NY

Fourth Place: 200-meter dash, NYSPHSAA Championships, Syracuse, NY
Bronze Medal: 200-meter dash, T.A.C. Age Group Nationals, Dayton, OH
Silver Medal: 200-meter dash, Region 1 Junior Olympics, Providence, RI
Sixth Place: 200-meter dash T.A.C. National Junior Olympics, Durham, NC
Silver Medal: 200-meter dash, and 400-meter dash, Empire State Games, Syracuse, NY

Miami University Indoor Records: 55 meters, 300 meters, 300 yards, 200 meters, 400 meters
Mid-American Conference Indoor Champion: 400 meters (new conference record)
Miami University Outdoor Records: 100, 200, 400 meters


It was Striders’ Executive Director Ron Graham, who has worked with Bakewell since she was a sophomore in high school, that figured out that she would do well at Miami.

“I’d seen some of the times they had in the MAC,” Bakewell said. “My times held up pretty well. Ronnie had it figured I would win the MAC when I first went there.”

Bakewell was one of the few bright spots on the Miami women’s track team because it finished last in the conference.

“Miami is still in the growing stages,” Williams said.

Bakewell, a physical education major, chose Miami because of its academic standards.

“I knew the school was not that well off in track,” she said. “But there was good competition in the conference. I knew I would get competition from other girls in the conference.”

Bakewell’s accomplishments, however, should make it easier for Williams to attract good talent for the Miami women’s track team.

“It’s a great selling card,” Williams said. “But we don’t make a point of it. We let it speak for itself.”

And Bakewell did plenty of “talking” at the MAC Championships.

Miami score 23 points and Bakewell accounted for 11 of them, 10 for first place in the 400 and 1 point for sixth-place with the mile relay team.

“She’ll probably have every record up to the 800 meters, including the 400 intermediate hurdles when she leaves (Miami),” Graham said.

Has she thought ahead to the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea?

“I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it too much,” she said. “This year, since I’ve almost qualified for the Trials, I see it coming.”

But for now, Bakewell is concentrating on the nationals at Eugene and a possible Olympic Trials berth.

“In the (NCAA) Nationals, I want to place and I want to qualify for the Olympic Trials,” Bakewell said.

“Sixth place in the nationals will make her an All-American,” Graham said. “You have to search the files to find an All-American from Chautauqua County.”

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