Blooming of a Lily: Baugh has proven herself as top runner on West Forsyth’s cross-country and track-and-field teams

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 25, 2024

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — Lily Baugh might be a freshman on the girls track-and-field team at West Forsyth, but don’t let that fool you. 

Just 15 years old, it didn’t take her long to burst on the scene last fall on the cross-country team, and she’s carried that momentum throughout the indoor and outdoor track-and-field seasons.  

According to her, Baugh ran the 1000-meter run during the indoor season, but she is concentrating on running the mile, 2-mile, 800-meter, and the 4×800-meter relay. 

“This spring has been really good,” Baugh said. “I actually have been getting quite a few PRs (personal records). And I was really happy because outdoor you know all the times; I kept getting PRs.”

Despite some frustration throughout the cross-country and track-and-field seasons when she would hit a certain time and not be able to improve that, she has noticed that has started to change.  

“The mile has gone really good,” she said. “So, indoor I was getting 5:29. I kept getting 5:29 or 5:28 and all the sudden in outdoor, well one race in indoor I got 5:21, I think. And then one race, I think it was two weeks ago, or one week ago, I all the sudden got 5:13. 

“So, I was so happy. I was kind of shook. I was like, ‘Wow. This is getting pretty fast.’” 

In essence, Baugh had already hit the proverbial wall in terms of not being able to improve her times in her races. However, she was able to climb that wall and has exceeded her own expectations. 

“She hit a wall in indoor where she was trying to run the 1,000, and I think she was running like the same time, you know, pretty much like over and over and over within like a second,” Coach Nathan Newsome of the Titans said.  

Newsome knew Baugh’s times would likely get better with experience and time. 

“Training with anybody is a little bit of a mystery,” Newsome said. “You don’t know how their bodies handle it. And I said (to her mom, Grace), she’s a ninth-grade girl, you know, just give it some time and see what happens. In any event, it’s been fun to watch.” 

That time Baugh was talking about what happened in the City-County Championship at Mount Tabor. In that same meet, she had 2:19 in the 800. Previous to that time, she said her best time was 2:24 or 2:26. In the 4×800 with Dempsey Burgess-Baldi, Abby Reutinger and LuLu Serang, she said her split time was 2:24. 

“She has the team’s fastest 3,200-meter,” Newsome said. “She ran that earlier in the season. I think she ran like 11:45, 11:46. But of course when given the choice, the last meet we had, the last home meet, I said, ‘Hey, guys, I’m going to let you pick what you want to run. Tell me what you want to run. And she picked the 1,600 (mile).” 

Coming off indoor track and field, she’s progressed through the first two months of the outdoor season.  

“One of the things that could be there is LuLu Serang, who ran a 5:13 1,600 meters (Saturday night at a meet at Weddington), didn’t run indoor with her,” Newsome said. “(Serang) was swimming. But Lily and LuLu work out together. So, I think that maybe during indoor not having a congruent running partner could’ve been, you know, it certainly wasn’t an advantage, I don’t think.” 

Having someone, be it a friend or otherwise, helps to push you. 

“I think it’s helped both of them,” Newsome said. “So, I think that’s probably the thing that has been a bit of an intangible was that once outdoor started (Baugh) picked up what I would call a veteran runner, training partner, and it’s made both of them better I think.” 

Something about the sunshine and the elements appeals to Baugh.  

“I definitely like outdoor more than indoor,” she said. “I think it’s because indoor, the track is just smaller. You know, it’s half of the outdoor track. The outdoor, I think, it’s just you don’t have to worry for so many laps. And also, there’s not as many turns. So, in indoor you kind of just have to turn all the time, you know.” 

There could also be one more thing in play. Baugh’s mother has been a runner for years. Inspired by her mother, Baugh got into running as a result of downtime from the COVID pandemic.

Baugh has two elder sisters, Anna, 20, and Abby, 18, who both ran at West Forsyth. Anna is on the cross-country and track-and-team at Montreat College. 

“(Lily) toddled around with mama,” Newsome said of seeing Lily Baugh around the track when her sisters were running for the Titans. “Mama is chatty and Lily was not. Lily was just quiet and just sat there, but I saw Lily running one time. I think her mom said something about her running in middle school. 

“Of course, you know I always just kind of look to see. As a middle-school runner, I thought, ‘Hmm, she’s doing pretty good.’ And I knew what kind of training she was doing, which was not a whole lot. But her mom told me, and her mom’s  arunner, too, and her mom told me that Lily would want to go run, that Lily would go with her, on her own accord. It’s one thing for the parent to make the kid do it. It’s another thing when the kid wants to go do it.” 

She runs both cross-country and track, and has for the past three years, be it at Meadowlark Middle School or West Forsyth, but track and field appeals to her more.  

“I think I like track more,” she said. “I think it’s cause track to me, it’s like you can pick what you want to run. And you can have a strategy for one certain run you like a lot instead of doing the one run that they choose for you to do, like the 3-mile only. Like you can do the 800 or the mile, whatever you like to do. So, I just think track is, I don’t know, I just like track a bit more.” 

A passion for the sport slowly blossomed. 

“I think it took a little time because when I started, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I like this,’” Baugh said. “But I just kept going and I started to really like it a lot.” 

Part of that love and grit for the sport meant she knew she was going to have to work hard at it. 

“I started to want to train harder in eighth grade, I think,” Baugh said. “I just wanted to get better, and since I got to high school and Coach Newsome has started coaching me, I’ve definitely gotten a lot better because of his coaching.  

“Because in middle school, the workouts that I was doing weren’t as hard, and I think harder workouts are just really helping me right now.” 

The workouts and the blood, sweat and tears Baugh has put into running are definitely paying off. Newsome and some of the West Forsyth track athletes, including Baugh, went to New York in March to compete in the Nike Indoor Nationals. I didn’t just help with her running; it helped her kind of break out of her shell.  

“I said that experience and seeing that and doing that and going to that Armory and that atmosphere is really, really worth it because, you know, I just think for a kid, too, especially to see that and to go and to walk the streets, walk through Time Square,” Newsome said. “And then, we hop on the subway, and we rode up the Armory. And then she kicked butt.  

“She’s just tough. If you haven’t gotten a chance to come to see it, come watch just because you can tell when she’s running, some kids, you can tell, ‘Is this all you had?’ You know, ‘Did you try as hard as you could?’ And when she’s done, you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah. That was all. That was every last drop that was in there.’” 

West Forsyth’s final regular-season meet is this Thursday at Reagan. Next Tuesday is the Central Piedmont 4-A championship at Davie County. The NCHSAA Class 4-A Midwest Regional is May 11, also at Davie County. If all goes well, Baugh might be able to compete as a freshman the following week in the NCHSAA Class 4-A state championship at N.C. A&T in Greensboro. 

“I’m excited,” Baugh said. “I think it’s going really good. And I’m excited to see how regional goes and how other races go.” 

If Baugh reaches the state championship that would be icing on the cake for her freshman experience at West Forsyth. 

“This year has been really amazing, and it’s been a really good experience,” she said. “I’ve been learning a lot of lessons from my races. It’s really great to be able to be, to have Coach Newsome to coach me, and to have all these great other athletes to hang out with and be able to race with them. You know, it’s a really cool experience.”