Before Jackson senior Kennedy Bauer realized she could sign a National Letter of Intent to continue her cross country and track and field career, it was already a dream of hers to attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
One reason was because Bauer is originally from Kansas City and was born there, but she also wants to become an orthodontist and UMKC has one of the best dental schools in the nation.
On Nov. 30, Bauer’s dream became true when she signed with UMKC to run for the school after her final season with Jackson cross country. She helped lead the girls team to a top-10 finish at ninth place, while claiming Class 4 All-State honors for a second-straight season.
This dream became a reality by all of the work and miles Bauer put in over the past four years.
“It’s been crazy because I started in ninth grade, and I really didn’t know how to be a good runner,” Bauer said. “Over the years and winning state with the team and getting to state myself, it was easier for me to know how to really push myself harder and harder to get where I wanted to be.”
As a sophomore in Bauer’s first year running on the varsity level, Jackson qualified for state as a team and won the Class 4 meet as she finished 49th overall with a time of 19 minutes, 57.42 seconds. This was the first state championship in program history and the first-ever state title for any girls athletic program at Jackson.
One year later as a junior, Bauer returned to the meet as an individual and earned all-state honors for the first time in her career by placing 18th overall at 19:29.03.
It was a goal for her and the other seniors to reach the state meet one last time as a team, which they did as Bauer took 10th place for another all-state finish with a time of 19:30.06 to cap off her cross country career at Jackson.
Bauer has also won two individual SEMO Conference Championships, one Class 4 District 1 Championship while helping lead the girls team to three conference titles and one district title.
As a member of the track and field team, Bauer is a three-time conference champion by winning the 1600 and 3200-meter runs last year and with the 4×400-meter relay team as a sophomore.
“It just means the world to me that I get to have the opportunity to run and be surrounded by all of these awesome people that are supporting me,” Bauer said.
Through each sport, Bauer said she has also made some of the best friendships in her life, and they have shaped the person she is today. Some examples of friends include former Indians Julia Kidwell, Margo Motes and Abbie Sadler.
Bauer has also formed a special bond over the years with fellow seniors like all-state cross country and track runner Kaylee Wilson and Faith Littleton, who both also helped lead the girls team to its first-ever state title.
“[To reach state this year] meant the world to us seniors because we went into the year really wanting and pushing for that and trying to be the best leaders we could be,” Bauer said. “It’s really cool to see our leadership pay off on the youngsters, and we really love the underclassmen, so it was really fun to be able to go the whole season with them.”
Jackson cross country Head Coach Andrea Talley said when someone signs a letter of intent to compete collegiately that it is a testament to their work ethic.
Coach Talley said Bauer is a prime example of hard work paying off since she “accepted the challenge” early on in her running career.
When Bauer first came out for cross country as a freshman, Talley described her as “itty bitty” and that Bauer looked like a seventh grader who would run with her friends and take it easy.
“She wasn’t really pushing herself hard, but she didn’t realize what she could become at that point,” Coach Talley said. “Back then she thought she was a hurdler and a sprinter, so I think she thought, ‘Well, I’m not really expected to push myself to what other distance runners push.’”
Talley said she noticed Bauer make a jump her sophomore year, but that she still wasn’t running an exceptional amount of miles due to shin and knee issues. The moment Bauer reached state that year is when Talley thinks she was “bit by the bug.”
“I think she realized that, ‘Hey, I think I can take this somewhere,’” Talley said. “Then she started to train a little bit more and had a successful year her junior year, but she was ready to go her senior year. She had actual goals she wanted to achieve, and she attained those goals. It was quite a transformation.
“Could I have expected that when she came out as a freshman? If all kids could see where she started from, they too could be where she is if they buy in and work and work and work each year.”
Bauer said it’s a little scary thinking of the work she has ahead at UMKC to have success at the college level, but like high school, she knows she can push through the miles since running is one of her passions. “It’ll definitely be hard, but it’ll be fun.”