July 16, 2013 Updated: July 16, 2013 at 8:20 pm
Former Coronado teammate Dan Eggers knew Bailey Roth was a natural as steeplechase racer.
"We would be running down the street and he would jump over a mailbox, not hurdling it, but with both his feet over the thing," the 2013 graduate said. "I was thinking, he should try the steeplechase; he would be good at it."
Indeed he is.
The defending Class 4A state 1,600- and 3,200-meter track champion recorded the No. 2 all-time high-school-age division mark of 5 minutes, 45.20 seconds during a 2,000 steeplechase heat at the IAAF World Youth Championships in the Ukraine last week. He advanced to the final and placed seventh in 5:45.87 in only his fifth race.
"I knew he had the right skill set," said his father Brian, a former Nebraska steeplechaser. "We knew he would be fast but we didn't know how it would rank in U.S. history. He is only a couple seconds off the national record (5:43.9, 1991)."
He returned home Tuesday excited by the experience.
"It was definitely cool to represent the United States and Colorado Springs, my new home," he said.
His rapid rise started last summer at the National Scholastic Invitational, an international track and field meet in Puerto Rico.
He ended up missing one of his scheduled events and decided to try the event out. He won in 6:18, which opened his eyes to the possibilities.
"After that I really wanted to do it again," Bailey said.
His desire is understandable, especially after racing was taken away from him.
His running career was derailed after he stumbled, hit his head and lost consciousness during a race in his native Georgia last summer. The doctor treating him misdiagnosed an irregular heartbeat and Bailey was told not to do any physical activity. Two months later, a cardiologist pointed out the mistake.
His family moved to Colorado shortly after and he burst onto the local scene.
The Gazette Boys' Track and Field Athlete of the Year as a junior finished as the 4A state runner-up (16:40.7) to lead the Cougars to the team cross country title last fall, starting off a tremendous year. He was also part of the state champion 4x800 relay this spring.
He won the 2,000 steeplechase at the New Balance outdoor nationals June 15 in the third-best American high school time (5:49.24) and the U.S. world track qualifying trials June 25 in the second-best time (5:47.2).
"He has not topped out yet in this event so they (college coaches) are very interested," Brian said. "It's very exciting for him."
An Olympic dream seems reasonable even though he knows a lot of work lies ahead.
"I know I have a long ways to go when it comes to reaching the senior (Olympic) level," Bailey said. "There is a lot I need to learn about tactics and jumping, but I definitely think steeplechase is in my future."