The sizable contingent from Burlington Central’s boys track and field team left for the Class 2A State Meet at Eastern Illinois University without him May 26.
Baig, who had been sick all week, did not feel well enough to travel with the rest of the Rockets when they left the day before the meet. He feared his high school career was done.
But the next day, Baig woke up, felt somewhat better and decided to give it a shot. Fortunately, the 1,600 meters is toward the end of the meet schedule, which gave him time to get to Charleston and warm up.
Baig qualified Friday, then took seventh in the 1,600 and sixth in the 3,200 in Saturday’s finals, making him the first Burlington Central runner in school history to medal in two distance races in a state meet.
Baig had dominated the area in distance races, taking both by wide margins in the Fox Valley Conference Meet and at the Rochelle Sectional. For his efforts, Baig is the 2022 Northwest Herald Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year, selected by the sports staff with input from area coaches.
Burlington Central’s Zac Schmidt (fourth in the 2A 400) and Richmond-Burton’s Jack Verdoni, who anchored the Rockets’ 2A runner-up 4x400 relay team, were also considered for the honor.
Baig also was picked as 2021 Northwest Herald Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year last fall after taking fifth in the Class 2A State Meet.
The Illinois State-bound runner answered a few questions from Northwest Herald sports writer Joe Stevenson about his season.
What will you remember most about this season?
Baig: The two things I will remember most are definitely my indoor state 3,200 meters win, along with when I won my heat at Distance Night in Palatine and set a school record in 9:17.
When did you actually make the decision to go ahead and run at the Class 2A State Meet?
Baig: I made the decision Thursday afternoon. I wasn’t able to go on the bus because of how sick I was. My original plan was to scratch the 1,600 and just run the 3,200, but I didn’t want all I worked for to go to waste, so I just gave it a shot.
Who is the most famous person you have taken a picture with?
Baig: I was touring the University of Illinois-Chicago, and we were out getting pizza at Giordano’s, then I noticed Bulls forward Patrick Williams just sitting there and asked for a picture.
What is something funny that happened to you in a race?
Baig: The funniest thing that ever happened to me during a race was when my teammates were cheering me on at the conference 4x400. They knew I was dead because I had already ran the 3,200 and the 1,600 prior to the 4x4 so the stuff they were saying was just pretty funny, and I cracked a smile during the race which usually doesn’t happen.
What is the last really good movie you saw in a theater?
Baig: Just a few days ago, I watched “Top Gun: Maverick” which was really good.
What is your dream vehicle?
Baig: Definitely a Ford Bronco.
What is a sport that you’re just not good at?
Baig: I am not very good at tennis. Every time I play with my friends they always tell me to just stick to running.
What is your favorite ice cream?
Baig: After every good race I am sure to go get a scoop of cookies and cream. Nothing beats it.
What is one of your big pet peeves?
Baig: Loud chewing.
What was a favorite book from your childhood?
Baig: I remember always loving Dr. Seuss books because they were so simple and easy to read.
What is your most prized possession?
Baig: It has to be all the medals I have earned over the years.
What is your go-to pre-meet meal?
Baig: Usually the night before I will have pasta or chicken and rice. The day of I keep it super simple and just have a bagel and peanut butter.
Who is your favorite professional sports team?
Baig: It’s got to be the Chicago Bulls.
If you could hop into a time machine and see any sporting event, which one would you pick?
Baig: I would love to watch the final game of the 2016 World Series when the Cubs won.