SOMEONE YOU SHOULD KNOW
In the time it would typically take a person to empty the trash, Shianne Baggett can run a mile.

This gift has given the Austin-area teen the opportunity to showcase her talent abroad as she was chosen to be part of the East Central Conference Team to race in Australia.

The race, called “Mini Olympics” of high school sports, was formed in 1989 to bridge international cultural and educational gaps between people from different countries.

Athletes from across the U.S. – 10 different conference teams from 10 different states – convene in Australia and Hawaii annually to compete in cross country, track and field, football, golf, wrestling, volleyball and cheer and dance. Baggett will depart for the nine day competition in Australia in late June.

Currently a sophomore at Whitney Young High School, the 15-year-old realized she had an aptitude for running while attending Elaine Lock Charter Academy three years ago.

“I always felt that I wanted to be on a track and field team, but Lock did not have a track team at the school,” said Baggett. “When I first arrived at Whitney Young, my coach encouraged me to tryout. I’ve been running ever since.”

Impressed with Baggett’s competitive nature and rapidly improving time, her coach encouraged her to tryout for the East Central Team, and Baggett was chosen to represent the state.

“It means a lot to me to have the opportunity to represent my school and country and compete against students from all over the world,” said Baggett. “I’m hoping that we can win the gold medal.”

Currently, Baggett can complete a half mile run in 2:20 and a full mile in 5:28.

The mini-Olympics competition is not the first time Baggett has traveled to a foreign country. She also visited Greece her freshman year at Whitney Young for a study abroad internship.

The trip allowed her parents to become more comfortable with the idea of her traveling overseas.

“They were very nervous about the Greece trip, especially my dad,” said Baggett. “It also didn’t help that I was there for two weeks and calling home was limited.”

Nevertheless, Baggett’s parents, Rasabbe Baggett and Mary Murphy, appreciated what the Greece trip meant to their daughter.

“We were able to overcome our initial fears and just appreciate the opportunities she will have from the Greece trip,” said Murphy.

“I’m proud that she will be able to participate in the event in Australia; I want her to experience as much of the world as she can,” added Murphy. “I think that’s important to her development.”

Currently, Baggett is attempting to raise the $4,500 to pay for her expenses to attend the event.

A fundraiser took place in early April at Coalfire Pizza on the West Side, and two Chilli’s locations, 2 E. Ontario St. and 7525 W. Cermak Rd., have agreed to donate a percentage of their May proceeds to sponsor the cross-country team. Nevertheless, Murphy is apprehensive about the possibility of Shianne missing the trip if funding is not obtained by the June 8th deadline.

“If somehow we are unable to raise the funding this year, Shianne would be invited back to participate next year,” said Murphy. “But considering the fact that this is the final year for her coach [Bob Gieger] prior to his retirement next year, I would prefer her to attend with him attending as well.”

Baggett, however, is optimistic about reaching the goal and is hopeful that their efforts will allow her to represent her country in Australia.

“I feel pretty good about reaching the goal. People have been very receptive to the idea of sponsoring the team,” said Baggett, adding that she hasn’t started looking at colleges yet, but hopes to find a university with a strong track and field program. She’s also looking for a school with a storied academic history.

“I’m still undecided on my major, but I do know that I want to continue running track in college,” she said.

To get involved

Those interested in sponsoring Shianne Baggett can visit www.downundersports.com Select "cross country team," and fill out Shianne's name on the sponsorship form.