By Bob Burns
David and Jennifer Bayliss go to great lengths to make sure track and field is an enjoyable experience for their 12-year-old daughter, Christine.
Before they head off to a big race, her parents try to arrange a get-together with her competitors beforehand. When they traveled to last summer’s USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships in Virginia, the Bayliss family spent a couple of days visiting the historical sites in Washington D.C.
“It’s important to remember that these are young kids,” David Bayliss said. “We’ve got to make it fun for them.”
Winning is also fun, and Christine handles that part of the equation. She won her first national championship in July when she raced to victory in the midget girls 3,000 meters at the Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in Greensboro, N.C. Her winning time of 10:23.56 set a Pacific Association age-group record.
Her accomplishments are even more remarkable when measured against her training load. David, a former professional biathlete, and Jennifer, the school record holder in the 3,000 meters and an All-American performer at Montana State in mid-1990s, are vigilant against early burnout.
“I have the ‘less is more’ philosophy,” David Bayliss said. “Christine may have had one week in which she put in 20 miles. Her weekly average is more like 10 to 12 miles. This is about having fun and giving her an opportunity.”
Christine lives in Danville with her parents and three siblings. A seventh-grader at Charlotte Wood Middle School, she competes in St. Joan of Arc CYO events during the school year and runs for the Roseville Express in USATF meets.
Four years ago, her parents signed her up, along with older sister Allison, for the local CYO program.
“At first, I didn’t like it that much, but as the years went on my friends joined, it became more fun,” Christine said. “I think it’s really fun to travel. I’d like to see more places.”
Her first exposure to national-class competition came in 2006, when she finished eighth at the Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships in Spokane, Wash. She skipped cross country nationals in 2007 but placed fifth in the midget division at last fall’s event in Mechanicsville, Va. Bayliss finished just five seconds behind the winner, Paige Rice.
The next two national meets are much closer to home. The Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships will be held Dec. 12 in Reno, and the JO Track Championships are set for July 27-Aug. 1 in Sacramento. Bayliss will compete in the midget class (11-12) at the upcoming cross country nationals.
“I’m definitely looking forward to compete at the JOs in Reno with my friends,” she said. “I hope to take first place.”
Bayliss won the 3,000 meters at this year’s track nationals by more than five seconds, defeating two of the runners who had finished ahead of her at the 2008 cross country nationals. Bayliss also holds the Pacific Association record for midget girls in the 1,500 meters at 4:50.24.
“Christine has the potential to be another Jordan Hasay,” said Jennifer Allred-Powless, the American River College track and cross country coach who assists the Roseville Express distance runners. “Her dad is really educating himself about the sport, and she’ll reap the benefits from that.”
David Bayliss was an all-state performer in cross country in Connecticut prior to attending Stanford University. He resumed his running career after graduating and served as a volunteer assistant coach at Palo Alto. Jennifer placed third in the 3,000 meters at the 1993 NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships.
“I think I got a little bit of this (talent) from my parents,” Christine Bayliss said. “Sometimes I run like my mom.”
David, a business development manager for a construction company, coaches his daughter in CYO track. The team practices just three times a week, and one of those practices is a “fun” day, featuring maybe the high jump or relay races. Christine, who also plays competitive soccer, sounds as if she’s getting the hang of racing.
“I’m learning how to be less nervous as I get more experienced,” she said. “I think it’s OK to be a little nervous, but remember it’s fun. It’s not that big of a deal. Just try your best.”
Her parents came up with the idea of arranging informal gatherings with other national-class runners before the big meet. Christine became friends with Paige Rice, the Portland (Ore.) standout, when they met prior to the JOs in Spokane.
“We’re trying to make this a social, fun experience and introduce the team to other kids from around the country who are experiencing the same thing.” David Bayliss said. “We want to show them that track is a great community sport.”