Kenai's Trevor Baldwin runs to a fifth-place finish in the Skyview Invite with a time of 17.16.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Hockey and distance running are about as different as George W. Bush and John Kerry.
Hockey requires shifts of maximum, explosive exertion for a few minutes or less. Players crash into each other at high speeds and must learn to work as a team to score goals.
Cross country running requires steady, aerobic effort for 16 minutes or more. There is not supposed to be contact between the runners and a runner can be the best in the state without any help from teammates.
Despite the vast differences in these sports, Kenai senior Trevor Baldwin excels in hockey, cross country and track for Kenai Central.
"It's a pretty hard transition," Baldwin said. "My lungs are still in shape from cross country, but hockey is more of a team sport. In cross country, you're running at the same time as your teammates, but you're not passing to them and scoring goals."
Baldwin completed his cross country career at Kenai holding the school record for the best time by a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior. He also ran the fastest cross country race in Kenai's history.
In track, Baldwin is a member of the 3,200-meter relay with the school record. In hockey, the senior has been part of Kenai's first victory at state, Kenai's first title in the Northstar Conference Tournament and Kenai's first regular season championship in the Northstar Conference.
Baldwin said his father, Randy Baldwin, started getting him into running in the sixth grade.
"I would run a lot with my dad," Baldwin said. "He was really into running in high school and college. He was a big influence."
When Baldwin was in eighth grade, he practiced with the high school team really early in the season. Those practices cemented Baldwin's decision to take up the sport in high school and excited cross country coach Liz Burck.
"He looks like a runner. He's got that runner physique," Burck said. "The fact that he wanted to run with us shows that he's always been driven to be better.
"If you take a kid like that with any kind of natural ability, it's like a coach's dream."
Baldwin started his career with the top finish by a freshman in the Nikiski Class Races. He finished 13th in regions and 25th in the state as a freshman. Jesse Cherry was the only freshman ahead of him at the state meet.
Before his sophomore season, Boyle started training with teammate Mick Boyle. In Baldwin's sophomore year, the duo would lead Kenai's boys cross country team to its first appearance at the state meet since 1979. Baldwin finished 13th at that meet, while the team finished eighth.
Baldwin and Boyle continued to push each other Baldwin's junior year.
"It was a really cool year," Baldwin said. "We were back and forth throughout the whole year. There were only two races where we were separated by more than a second."
Baldwin finished seventh at state that year, while Boyle was sixth in the last race of his prep cross country career .
"After that race, I thought, 'Whoa. I'm not really going to have anyone to push me next year,'" Baldwin said.
Baldwin said got through training runs his senior year by listening to music. He must have been doing something right, because he set a new course record of 15 minutes, 59.3 seconds, this season at the ACS Invite.
"That was a tremendous milestone for him, for me as a coach and for the school," Burck said of Baldwin breaking the 16-minute mark.
Baldwin finished second at the region meet to help his team qualify for state, but then finished ninth at state.
"I still lose sleep over what happened at state," Baldwin said. "I wanted to stay with (eventual champ) Cherry, but I think I shot out too hard."
Baldwin is hoping to make up for that this track season. He has his eyes set on Troy Navarro's school records in the 1,600 and 3,200.
"I see him at a lot of the races," Baldwin said of Navarro. "He introduced himself sophomore year, and later in the year he told me that if anybody was going to beat his records, he hoped it would be me. It was cool having him say something like that."
Before Baldwin worries about track, he will skate his senior season for the hockey team. Baldwin, who has played the game since he was 4 years old, made the varsity as a freshman despite a frame that even now goes just 5-foot-10, 140 pounds.
"He's one of those kids that if you held him up to a light, you could do an anatomy class," said Brian Gabriel Sr., who coached Baldwin his freshman through junior years. "He's not afraid to go into the corner, though, and he doesn't back down from anybody."
Gabriel Sr. said Baldwin is a versatile player and a player who comes up with clutch goals. Last year, the Kardinals would play a game at the end of every week of practice where players line up and go one-on-one against the goalie. Players that miss sit out, and the last player to miss wins.
"He'd won like three or four weeks in a row, so the kids that were sitting out would take shots on him as he was skating up the ice," Gabriel said. "He'd take three good shots to the body and still make a goal."
Nate Kiel, the varsity coach at Kenai, said he is looking forward to having Baldwin this year. He said Baldwin has been playing defense in comp hockey, which has only increased his versatility.
"One of his biggest contributions will be his leadership, positive attitude and work ethic," Kiel said. "He's a gifted player who excels offensively and has good vision on the ice."
Baldwin said he would like to win a third Northstar Conference Tournament as a senior and make a run at a state title.
Baldwin, who has a grade-point average of 3.5, would like to go college next year. Although he likes hockey better than running, he said his size will probably have him running next year.
"He's a pretty quiet kid, but he's proven himself to be one of the most focused and serious runners I've worked with," Burck said.
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