Hurdling Head-on

RHS track coach recounts her own athletic journey

Photo+courtesy+of+Kimberly+Bayer

Photo courtesy of Kimberly Bayer

“When I was in the blocks, I would inhale, exhale, and feel myself relax. Once I focused, everything would shut out, all the noises. I would hear people start screaming and then I heard nothing… I was in my zone.”

Kimberly Bayer, the hurdles coach at Rocklin High School, has been committed to the sport ever since her freshman year at Oakmont High School in Roseville. In fact, after competing for several years and even in college, she eventually became a coach for the same event. “My coach recruited me from gymnastics and I loved it immediately. I always loved to run. I was running ever since I was a kid in elementary school, faster than all the boys,” Bayer shared. 

“I still dream now, I dream of hurdling and I can feel it. So I miss that running and just pushing myself physically to where I’m completely beyond exhaustion but mentally I know I can keep going. I love that feeling”

This success was not without its challenges. “In high school, my biggest challenge was [my teammate] on varsity, she grew up with track, her dad was a track coach and had a track club. So, her senior year, when I was a junior in JV, I was always one to two tenths of a second behind her,” Bayer stated. After pushing herself, Bayer was finally able to beat her. “And then when she was gone, I became number one. You have to chase and be next to number one if you want to become it,” Bayer continued.

While still in high school, Bayer already knew that she wanted to become a PE teacher or coach. “All my PE teachers were main mentors and huge role models for me. They helped me make life decisions, not just like event decisions,” Bayer reflected. In fact, she absolutely “copied” those steps of one of her coaches, “I literally wore her uniform in college. It was her same number, same everything,” Bayer continued. 

She began her career working as a coach for gymnastics, which she did for many many years. Then Bayer continued pursuing this career path by working in health clubs and teaching yoga. She is still teaching yoga at Sierra College to this day. At the same time, Bayer continues to Coach at Rocklin five days a week. “My first year coaching was at Oakmont, at my [alma mater]. And then I did personal coaching, but this is my ninth season with Rocklin and I would never go anywhere else to coach,” Bayer clarified. 

However, coaching and hurdling are two different things. After Bayer got a chronic knee injury and had multiple surgeries, she is no longer able to hurdle. “I still dream now, I dream of hurdling and I can feel it. So I miss that running and just pushing myself physically to where I’m completely beyond exhaustion but mentally I know I can keep going. I love that feeling,” Bayer explained. 

Now that Bayer is unable to hurdle, she channels this feeling into other sports and into her athletes. “I live vicariously through you guys. Through you, I feel it. I mean my heart rate was so high, I’m not kidding you because my Fitbit was telling me, when Ian three stepped [used an advanced hurdle technique] the other day – I was completely out of breath, borderline crying, [and] squealing like an idiot. I hope he didn’t turn the audio on because I recorded his whole race,” Bayer shared. At every practice and track meet, Bayer gets emotionally involved in her athletes’ performances. “When you succeed, I succeed. I’m living through you and I want to see you each get a personal record (PR) every week. I want to see you progress, I want to see you get better. I want to see you get more confident. It doesn’t mean you’re winning, I mean if you go from five stepping with 23 and you end up four stepping with 19, that’s success for you and I want to play a part of that,” Bayer shared. 

Although it may seem obvious, hurdling is not only a physical challenge, but a mental one as well. “Emotionally, you have to be strong and have tenacity and you have to be aggressive. You are not gonna find a shy or timid hurdler, I can tell you that,” Bayer stated. In fact, Bayer believes it is important to focus on hurdles not as obstacles, but as opportunities. “You can’t look at them as blocks. Some people go around them or under them, but I prefer over. Not just hurdling, which requires a lot more strength and guts than just plain running, but all athletics makes you be a stronger person. You’re more focused, you’re more organized, and more structured because you’ve made a commitment to go to practice and you’re giving that time. That goes all the way over into school and jobs and life,” Bayer explained.

Bayer teared up a little bit as she shared how much her athletes mean to her. “Some of them are kids I would have absolutely liked to have taken home,” Bayer shared, “You guys have no idea how much you are a part of our lives. A big part.”