In five years as Head Coach of Women's Cross Country and Assistant Coach of Track and Field in charge of women's middle and long distance events, Mitchell Baker has developed his teams and event groups to elite Ivy, Regional and NCAA levels on the trails, track, and in the classroom, respectively.
In all, cross country athletes under his tutelage have earned All-Ivy recognition eight times, All-Region nine times, NCAA individual qualification twice, All-America once, and named to the USATF Junior Cross Country Team once. All five cross country teams earned United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Academic honors, as have nine individuals. On the track, his athletes have earned another eight All-Ivy nods, eight NCAA First Found qualifications, six USATF Junior qualifications, one USATF senior qualification, one NCAA Honorable-Mention All-America honor, five All-Time Ivy Top-Ten performances, and sixty-one Brown All-Time Top-Ten marks, including twelve program records. His track athletes have been a part of five All-Academic Track & Field teams and themselves earned seven individual USTFCCCA All-Academic nods.
The 2015-2016 academic period proved a breakthrough year for his athletes. The fall season culminated with a third-place team finish at the NCAA Northeast Regional netting a tie for the final bid to the NCAA Championships and was the program’s highest finish since an equal third-place in 2001. Sophomore Natalie Schudrowitz ’18 (fourth-place overall) and Taylor Worthy ’17 (nineteenth) earned All-Region honors, and freshman Carleen Jeffers ’19 (twenty-sixth) joined them as USTFCCCA All-Academic recipients to lead the team to their fifth straight All-Academic award under Baker. Although ultimately losing the tiebreak for the final team spot, number-one runner Schudrowitz ’18 qualified individually and ran to a twenty-third place finish at the NCAA Championships, strong enough for All-America honors and the highest finish for any Ivy League athlete. Jeffers ’19, the top true-freshman at both the Ivy League and NCAA Regional meets, earned a place on the US Junior Under-20 Cross Country Team to Scotland’s Great Bupa run in January 2016, the program’s first recipient of that honor.
The 2015-2016 indoor track & field season brought more fireworks from Schudrowitz ’18 when she ran to a program record in the 3,000-meters (9:13.53, #8 Ivy All-Time) mid-season, a mark that qualified her to the USATF Senior Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon, in March. Prior to racing in Portland, Schudrowitz ’18 finished a hard-fought runner-up over 3,000-meters and ran to a title over 5,000-meters at the Ivy League Championships indoors, joining alumna Heidi Caldwell ’14 (indoor ’12, outdoor ’12) as winners over that distance since Baker’s arrival. Not to be outdone, the underclassmen quartet of Alexis Van Pernis ’18, Jeanine Noordam ’18, Clare Peabody ’18, and Worthy ’17 ran to an indoor Ivy title in the 4x800-meters, Peabody ’18 scored third-place points over 1,000-meters (Ivy #8 All-Time), Jeffers ’19 scored fifth and placed as the top freshman in the 5,000-meters, and Noordam scored sixth over 500-meters.
During the 2016 outdoor season, Worthy ’17 scored in the Ivy 800-meter final, the same indoor 4x800-meter squad secured a third-place finish, cross country number-six runner Megan Ratcliffe ’18 ran to a fourth-place finish in the Ivy 10,000-meter race, Peabody ’18 (1,500-meters) and Ratcliffe ’18 (10,000-meters) earned bids to the NCAA First Round, and Jeffers ’19 (5,000-meters) and fellow freshman Emma Sloan ’19 (1,500-meters) earned bids to the USATF Junior Championships in California. In all, sixteen season’s-bests were added to Brown’s All-Time Top-Ten during the indoor and outdoor seasons, highlighted by three to the outdoor 1,500-meter list (Peabody ’18, Worthy ’17, and Van Pernis ’18), bringing to five-out-of-ten the number of current or graduated athletes that count Baker as their coach from that one event list. As in the fall, three athletes earned USTFCCCA All-Academic recognition (Peabody ’18, Ratcliffe ’18, Schudrowitz ’18) for their combination of academic and track and field performances, bringing the total to six awards for five recipients on the year.
The rebuilding process that Baker started upon his arrival on College Hill in August 2011, and which reached new heights in 2015-2016, first showed progress at the 2012 Indoor and Outdoor Ivy League Championships where eventual five-time school-record setter Heidi Caldwell ’14 ran to upset 5,000-meter titles at each meet, respectively. That same spring of 2012, Caldwell’s ’14 teammate Olivia Mickle ’13 raced to the 10,000-meter NCAA Finals, along the way setting the first of two new program standards over that distance, the second of which coming in 2013 with a 33:29.85, ranking her on the Ivy All-Time Top-Ten list at the time. The fall of 2012 saw Caldwell ’14 (fourth place), Mickle ’13 (fifth) and Margaret Connelly ’14 (seventh) earn First-Team All-Ivy honors by virtue of each placing in the top-seven individuals, and Connelly ’14 would rise to another level just a few short weeks later and finish seventh again, but this time at the NCAA Northeast Regional to land an individual bid to the NCAA Championships.
In addition to the aforementioned exploits of Mickle ’13, herself a four-time All-Ivy recipient, the ensuing years brought continued Brown, Ivy, NCAA and academic honors. Caldwell ’14 led that charge (three cross-country All-Ivy and All-Region honors, five school records (both indoor and outdoors for 3,000-meters and 5,000-meters, the latter event twice), two NCAA First Round qualifications, and multiple Ivy and USTFCCCA academic honors) and helped attract and develop what is now the core of the student-athletes within the program. Lucy Van Kleunen ’17 was one of the first to carry Caldwell’s legacy forward by grabbing Cross Country All-Region honors (twenty-first) in 2014 before teaming with newcomer Schudrowitz ’18 to qualify through to the NCAA First Round in the steeplechase in the spring of 2015. Schudrowitz’s ’18 steeplechase run at the NCAA First Round (10:02.63, then #5 Ivy All-Time) just missed qualifying her to the NCAA Finals and US Senior Championships, but it was the fastest time in the NCAA for any true freshman, still sits number-six on the All-Time Ivy Record Book, and broke the school record of Anna Willard ’06, the former American Record Holder for the event. Van Kleunen ’17 (10:13.20) was right behind Schudrowitz ‘18 at both the Ivy and NCAA First Round, good enough for ninth fastest sophomore in the NCAA and just outside of the Ivy Top-Ten list at the time.
Prior to arriving on College Hill, Baker spent four years from 2007-2011 as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Williams College, serving as a cross country assistant under his own college coach and many-time NCAA Coach of the Year, Peter Farwell, as well as the primary event coach for the men’s and women’s middle distances. He assisted teams that garnered seven finishes in the NCAA top-ten, eleven Division III New England Regional Championships, and eleven New England Small College Athletic Conference titles. As the day-to-day coach of the middle-distance events, ten student-athletes earned a total of twenty-two All-America awards. Of those awards, ten came by virtue of top-three NCAA finishes including the men's outdoor 5,000-meter champion in 2010 (Connor Kamm ’10), who was later named USTFCCCA Outdoor Track Scholar Athlete of the Year. Another of his student-athletes (Macklin Chaffee ’09) raced to runner-up NCAA Outdoor 1,500-meter finishes in consecutive years, was named NCAA New England Regional Athlete of the Year, and qualified for the 2009 USATF Senior Championships in Eugene, Oregon, with what was then the eighth fastest time in NCAA Division III history (3:44.71). In addition to the All-America performances, student-athletes from his group competed at the NCAA Championships eleven additional times, and fifteen more performances made the NCAA provisional or automatic cut. During the two fall seasons that Baker assisted Farwell, the men’s and women’s squads earned matching third-place NCAA finishes in 2008 and three athletes earned All-America honors. Academically, the teams garnered USTFCCCA Academic honors both years with the 2008 men's team earning National Academic Team of the Year. Encouraged by his mentors at Williams, Baker interrupted his four years coaching Williams and traveled to Kenya in the fall of 2009 to apprentice under Renato Canova, the former Head Track & Field Coach of Italy and Qatar, respectively, current Head Coach of China, and the IAAF International Lecturer on Endurance.
Baker first coached at LaSalle Academy in Manhattan, New York, from 2005-2006 as a parallel pursuit to a career in architecture before transitioning full-time into education as a teacher and coach at Cardinal Hayes High School in the south Bronx from 2006-2007. During an undergraduate term at Stanford in 2003, Baker studied public art and found his first coaching mentor while shadowing Coach Frank Gagliano, the retired coach of Georgetown University, then of The Nike Farm Team in Palo Alto, California, and current coach of the New Jersey-New York Track Club. Also as a Williams student-athlete, Baker earned All-New England honors and competed three times at the NCAA Cross Country Championships with a high team-finish of fifth. As a collegiate senior, he served as cross country co-captain and received the program's endowed Plansky Award for leadership, citizenship and sportsmanship, and the Creem Award for loyalty, perseverance and desire during track & field. Along with his studies in Art Studio, he emphasized Art History and subsequently received upon graduation a fellowship in medieval archaeology to southern France. One of four children of Drs. Edward and Molly Baker of Macomb, Illinois, Baker competed in football, basketball, cross country and track & field for Macomb High School. In his personal life, Baker credits his parents as his greatest influences, and his wife, Kali Moody, as his greatest support.
In addition to learning a diverse methodology for coaching the middle and long distances under Gagliano in California, Farwell at Williams, and Canova in Kenya, Baker has completed the USATF Level 1 Education School and achieved certification through the USTFCCCA Track and Field Academy for both Jumps Events Specialization and Strength & Conditioning, respectively.