The Post-Journal

‘I Just Had A Hunch’

Bakewell Set NCAA Outdoor Championship 800-Meter Mark In 1986


Jamestown native and Miami (Ohio) University 800-meter runner Karen Bakewell, right, nears the finish line.
Jamestown native and Miami (Ohio) University 800-meter runner Karen Bakewell, right, nears the finish line at the 1986 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Indianapolis. Bakewell’s time of 2:00.85 was enough to hold off Tina Parrott of Indiana, left, who was timed in 2:01.02. Photo courtesy of Miami (Ohio) University.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article appeared in The Post-Journal on June 7, 1986, the day after Jamestown native Karen Bakewell, representing Miami (Ohio) University, broke the meet record in the 800 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Indianapolis. This is the second in a series of “Remember When” stories featuring some of the area’s most memorable sports moments through the years.

She did it.

Karen Bakewell, a Jamestown native representing Miami (Ohio) University, broke the meet record in the 800 meters Friday night at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Indianapolis.

Her time of 2:00.85 was just ahead of crowd favorite Tina Parrott of Indiana. Bakewell and Parrott, timed in 2:01.02, both were under the old meet record of 2:01.20, set by Claudette Groenendaal of Oregon in 1985.

Bakewell, who finished third in the qualifier in 2:02.77 Wednesday night, becomes the second local product to earn Division I All-American honors within the last year. Frewsburg’s Shane Conlan

was named to several All-American teams as a member of the Penn State football team.

Karen Bakewell
Karen Bakewell was part of a track resurgence at Miami University in 1986. Photo courtesy of Miami (Ohio) University.

Ironically, Bakewell, a sophomore at Miami, hadn’t run the 800 meters in a competitive race until mid-March. Since then, she’s literally taken off, capped by Friday night’s record-shattering performance.

One person who wasn’t surprised about her performance was her father, Gene, who watched from the stands.

“We just felt, based on what the coach (Rich Ceronie) said, she had that type of race in her,” Bakewell said.

He noted that his daughter’s strategy was to “go out with the pack and at the end of 300 meters give a little acceleration and pull three meters ahead of that group.”

And that’s what she did, holding off Parrott in the last 100 meters.

Her father explained that many observers around him figured that his daughter wouldn’t be able to hold the lead.

“The people around us thought she might be the pace-setter up to 700 meters,” he said. “Then they though she would ‘die’ and the girls from Indiana (Parrott) and Texas (Karol Davidson, who finished fourth in a time of 2:02.83), would pass her.”

No such luck.

“The fact is, she never died,” Gene said. “She just kept right on going.”

Into the record books.

Her winning time was 3¢ seconds faster than her previous best, which she set earlier this year at the Jesse Owens Classic at Ohio State University.

“The coach says it (her faster time) is the fact she’s running with great athletes that make her run to her capacity,” Bakewell added.

He noted that he had a chance to speak with Karen just briefly because there were so many reporters around her.

“She was just very happy,” he said.

Another person who was very happy was Ron Graham, executive director of the Chautauqua Striders, who started working with Bakewell when she was in junior high school.

“I was up in Buffalo for the state qualifier (Section VI preliminaries) and I was thinking about Karen Bakewell and I said, ‘I know she’s going to win it,'” he said. “I just had a hunch she’d win it.”

Kent Sherrington, Miami’s assistant sports information director, said Friday night that Ceronie told him Bakewell would win.

“He told me, ‘You better believe it,'” Sherrington said. “He knew she could do it.”

And so it goes for Bakewell, who said last week that her ultimate goal is the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

But for now there are plenty of people quite proud of her accomplishment Friday night.

The NCAA championship highlighted an outstanding spring for Bakewell, who has been part of a track resurgence at Miami.

Not only did the Redskins win the Mid-American Conference Championships — two years after finishing ninth — but Bakewell was also named the MAC Athlete of the Year. In the conference meet, she won the 400 meters and the 800 meters, was second in the 200 meters and anchored the 1,500-meter relay, which finished second in a school-record time.

At the Jesse Owens Classic, in which only the top eight 800-meter runners were invited, Bakewell finished second in a school-record time of 2:04.18.

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