By Gerry Steele
Baker cross country runners were welcomed by a new face this fall when the 2012 season began.
Mike Knutson replaces Tish Bloomer as the Bulldogs' coach. Bloomer had coached the Bulldogs since 2009.
Knutson has a solid background in cross country, competing for Division II University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was an All-American in track and field.
Knutson also ran in the Boston Marathon last year, placing 88th in a time of 2:41:22. He said he plans to run again next April.
Knutson said he grew up in a small town in Wisconsin.
"We didn't have cross country at my school so I didn't see a lot of competition until I got to the championships," he said.
Knutson found out about the coaching vacancy at BHS when his wife, Dr. Melissa Knutson, was hired as a new physician at St. Alphonsus Medical Group-Baker City.
"We had always aspired to live in a small mountain community, but hadn't heard about Baker," Knutson said.
"We liked what we saw; the people, the friendliness. So we made the jump."
Knutson also will run the family ranch and will teach physical education and health at South Baker and Brooklyn.
Knutson welcomed 25 runners out for early practices at BHS, mostly boys.
"We'll have a big, old boys team including eight seniors and five juniors," he said. "I'm excited about that group with the age and experience we have."
Nic Maszk, last year's Greater Oregon League champion, leads the returning runners. Maszk also placed sixth at the Class 4A state meet.
"Nic has high expectations considering his ability," Knutson said.
Other top returning runners are Connor Yates and Ian and Evan Krohn.
"We'll have a strong intrasquad to get those seven varsity spots. But, that's only going to make us stronger."
The Baker girls team is another story with just five girls currently out.
"We have some really hard working girls, but we definitely need some more runners," Knutson said.