Dalton Baker hopes to celebrate the last weeks of his senior year by becoming a state meet qualifier in boys’ track.

He’s off to a running start, posting a first-place finish in both the 3,200 and 1,600 races at Nevada’s first outdoor track meet of the year on March 26.

Track and cross country have been the highlights of Baker’s high school days, and he’s also participated in baseball and FFA. The career he wants to pursue — personal trainer — has a strong relationship to what he’s dealt with as a runner.

“Last year I had a pain in my quad. She (his physical therapist) gave me new exercises to strengthen my hips and videotaped my running form — then showed me areas to correct (in that running form),” he said.

Those changes and a strong work ethic have improved Baker’s time as a distance runner and might make it possible for him to earn that state tournament berth.

“I want to do the same things for other people and athletes,” he said of his career plans. “I want to help them find easier ways to be injury-free.” Baker plans to start his post-high school education at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge.

He chose ICCC, he said, “mostly because of their academics and athletic success in past years.” He plans to not only study there but will also continue to run in cross country and track. “On a visit there, I felt like this is the place I need to be.” He admitted that he has no idea yet where he’ll finish his college years, since ICCC is only a two-year program. Where he’ll transfer to is still to be determined.

Looking back on his education in Nevada, Baker said his family moved here when he was in fourth grade from Ames, and he started his fifth-grade year in Nevada. “I really liked it, because it was a smaller town and everyone was so friendly. The teachers were really focused on my academics.”

His first teacher that first year, he recalled, was Mr. Fitch. “He was a really fun teacher to be around and he had a real passion for teaching.”

When Baker got to high school, he continued to be impressed with Nevada Schools. “I have liked Nevada High School because of the opportunities students get here.” He listed the ability to take DMACC classes and ISU classes and be involved in ag programs as some of Nevada’s strongest points. He also likes the teachers, all of them. “Each year, the staff here tries to create more classes for their students to give them more opportunities,” he said. His favorite high school classes, by the way, have been chemistry and algebra II.

Graduation is certainly not far away, and Baker said he and his mom, Lori, have been working on things for graduation already. “She’s working on getting announcements and invitations done,” he said. But what he’s really excited about, he noted, is that his graduation party will be extra-special because he’s going to share it with his older sister, Whitney.

Interestingly, Whitney will graduate this spring from Drake University with a Ph.D. in occupational therapy, a profession related to what Dalton wants to study.

“She’s been like a role model to me,” he said of his sister. “She showed me what hard work will do for you and told me to try your best at … whatever you do.”

That would be Baker’s advice to other students who are still coming up through high school. “Work your hardest and take college classes, because some of those will transfer … and may take the load off you during your freshman year.”

Baker said he will miss high school and miss his teachers and friends, and the atmosphere of the high school that’s about “preparing you” for being an adult. “Once you get to college … you have to be an adult.”

For now, though, he’s focused on the track season and seeing how far he and his team can go with it. “I’m hoping that we qualify as many people as we can (for state). Last year we lost a couple (good) guys, but I want us to see our potential. We have a good coaching staff that will help us in any way they can, and I hope that’s what we will use to get us to state.”

Baker is the son of Mike and Lori Baker of Nevada. He has two older siblings, Chad, a graduate of Ames High, and Whitney, a graduate of Nevada High. He has one younger sister, Delaney, who is a sophomore at Nevada High School.