By Kevin Liao
June 21, 2017
SACRAMENTO – Some of you may not have heard much from Ronnie Baker before this spring.
The TCU alum was a two-time NCAA champion in the indoor 60 meters but was never a heralded star coming out of college having only made the semifinals of last year’s Olympic Trials.
But starting this indoor season, Baker started coming into his own as a pro. The Louisville, Ky. native won the U.S. indoor 60 meter title in a world leading time of 6.45 seconds. Then outdoors, Baker has broken 10 seconds for 100 meters three times. Most notable was a massive win at the Prefontaine Classic in a wind-aided 9.86 seconds, taking down names like Andre De Grasse, Justin Gatlin, and Mike Rodgers.
We had a chance to chat with Baker on Wednesday, a day before he competes in the 100 meter prelims at the USA Track & Field Championships in Sacramento.
Citius Mag: It’s been quite a breakthrough year for you this year. What’s made the difference?
Ronnie Baker: The biggest difference has been getting stronger, both physically and mentally, now that I’ve transitioned from the college to professional level.
CM: Is it just about having more time to focus on running without class and other things to deal with?
RB: I have a lot of free time on my hands now. I don’t have a whole lot of responsibilities now — I just go to practice and relax. Not having any obligations has helped being able to hone in and focus on what I’m doing each and every day to get better, whether that’s mentally or physically. I think having that downtime is huge.
CM: Can that extra downtime be a negative? I’ve heard some athletes say you can almost overthink things. What do you do to get yourself ready to go?
RB: I do a lot of visualization — that’s big part of who I am and how I compete. I told NBC after the race at Pre that I had seen the race a million times. It played out how I wanted it to. It’s a huge part of helping me have confidence when I line up against the Gatlin’s and Tyson Gay’s.
CM: Is that something you work with someone on? Or have you picked it up on your own?
RB: I’ve kind of picked it up on my own. I’ve never worked with a sports psychology guy. I think it’s part of having a dream. When you have a dream and want to do something, you have to be able to see yourself doing that thing. You can’t just say, “I want to accomplish this great thing.” If you never see yourself do it, how you can expect to get there? It comes with setting goals — you think about how you want it to happen and what you want to see. Then that’s exactly how it works out.
CM: If you Google Ron Baker, the first thing that comes up is the guy on the New York Knicks.
RB: There’s a country singer as well.
CM: Oh, really?
RB: *Laughs* Yeah.
CM: So what’s it going to take for the first Ron Baker hit on Google to be you?
RB: I’ve got to make this team — that’ll be a good start. And potentially getting a medal at one of these World Championships and Olympic Games.
CM: He’s still a bench player, so he’s not quite big-time yet.
RB: Not big-time yet. Hopefully I’ll be more big-time than he is soon.
Sacramento-based amateur runner, photographer and writer. Once interviewed Taoufik Makhloufi in French. Enjoys politics a lot. Follow him on Twitter @RunLiao.