During a high school track meet one afternoon, Lachelle Baker was in the stands studying for her nursing degree when the crowd stood and started cheering. When she asked what the hoopla was all about, someone said, “Look at that kid flying around the track!”
She looked a little closer.
It was her son, Ronnie Baker.
Ronnie’s most recent “flight” was at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Ronnie ran a personal best of 9.83 seconds in the semifinal of the 100-meter dash, which put him among the favorites going into the finals. However, he finished fifth in the finals with a 9.95.
He was disappointed not to win a medal, but thankful for the chance to compete.
“I can’t change what’s in the past, so the best thing to do is stop crying and move forward,” Ronnie said. “I know who I am and Whose I am—a child of the Most High God. I know that He has bigger things planned for me, even in the midst of disappointment. I just have to be patient and continue to have faith in Him and His Word. I’ve already won because my eternal place is in heaven and the streets are paved with the medal I competed to win. I thank God for the opportunity and a personal best time of 9.83.”
Many kids dream of being in the Olympics. Few relish the hard work and determination it takes to succeed at that level.
In the beginning, Ronnie ran track to stay in shape between football and basketball seasons at Ballard High School. His dream was to play in the NBA.
He faced obstacles.
“I didn’t grow up in the greatest part of Louisville,” Ronnie said. “My parents were not together, but my mom raised me to never make excuses and work hard.”
Lachelle Baker is a quiet, hard-working nurse at Cherokee Park Rehabilitation Center.
Few friends in classes at the Sports & Fitness Center at Southeast Christian Church or coworkers at her job know that she raised an Olympian.
Amid the busyness of family life with school and work, Ronnie encouraged Lachelle to finish her degree in nursing.
“Ronnie is a huge part of why I’m a nurse today,” Lachelle said. “He encouraged me to go back to school. We’d been living in Alaska when we moved back to Louisville. By then I was a single mom, raising three children. I couldn’t have made it without the Lord directing my steps.”
As the oldest of three children, Ronnie stepped up to help with his younger sister and brother. He was so responsible that Lachelle often had to remind him he just needed to be a 13-year-old and have fun.
Ronnie’s road to the Olympics was never easy.
Lachelle was busy with work and school when she noticed at breakfast one morning that Ronnie’s pants were high above his ankles. When she told him to change, he admitted that all of his pants were too short.
“Are kids teasing you?”
“Yes. But it’s OK, Mom,” he said. “You have enough to worry about.”
At Ballard, Ronnie set records in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races. In 2011 and 2012, he was the Gatorade Kentucky Track and Field Athlete of the Year, an award given to the high school student with athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character. The company sent them so much powdered Gatorade that Lachelle and Ronnie were able to stock the school.
“It’s all God,” Lachelle said. “He is so good. When you know the Lord and what His Word says, you know He has a plan to give you a future and hope. He put Ronnie on an amazing journey.”
As he won race after race, Ronnie began to realize that God gave him a gift.
“God blessed me with a wonderful gift,” Ronnie said. “I wanted to be a good steward of it. I had to put in the hard work. My core principles are being adaptive, not making excuses, putting in a lot of hard work and staying humble.”
He applied the same principles to his relationship with Christ.
“I had to get serious with myself and truly put the same level of hard work as a track and field athlete into my relationship with Christ,” he said “God is always at the door of our hearts, but we must go halfway in meeting Him.”
College coaches lined up to offer Ronnie scholarships. It was what he needed to get a degree without debt. Lachelle and Ronnie visited three schools and prayed about making the right decision.
“We ended up at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth,” Lachelle said. “Only the Lord could do such a thing. It shows what an amazing God we serve.”
At Texas Christian, Ronnie transitioned from running the 400-meter to the 100-meter. The team won two national championships. He also won two NCAA championships in the 60-meter dash at the USA Indoor Championships in 2015 and 2016. In 2019, he medaled in the 60 meters at the World Indoor Championships. His personal best of 6.40 seconds in the 60 meters makes him the third-fastest man in event history.
Ronnie turned pro and signed with Nike after graduating from Texas Christian with a degree in kinesiology.
On March 7, 2020, he married a pastor’s daughter, Mikaela Harrison, in Fort Worth. Ronnie describes her as a “beautiful girl I met at church.”
A year later, Ronnie placed second in the 100 meters at the Olympic Trials and earned a spot on Team USA. Though he was disappointed with his finish in the Olympics, he plans to train hard, adapt, make no excuses, stay humble and chase after God. The World Championships in 2022 are next for him.