Kendyl Baugh regained that familiar sense of security as she walked her son around the track at South Lakes High School last year. The 35-year-old Baugh traveled back to Reston with her son Kellen — the lone survivor of what would have been four-year-old triplet sons. "You want your kids to do certain things," said Baugh, whose sons Christoper and Cale passed away shortly after birth. "One of my desires was to get my boys to run around on South Lakes' track. A year ago, I had the opportunity to run on the track that I never lost a race on. That meant a lot to me to get him back to where I was."
Where Baugh was 17 years ago, as a high school senior at South Lakes, was on top of the racing world.
"She was just a legend," said Alexa Lange, a 1990 Herndon graduate that won the AAA state title in the outdoor 3200-meter run in 1988. "Everyone loved watching her race."
Baugh was a four-time district, four-time region, and six-time Virginia High School League AAA state champion in indoor and outdoor track who eventually signed a full scholarship with the University of Texas. Baugh still holds the indoor track record for the 500-meter dash (1:13.62) as well as the outdoor records for the 200-meter (24.42) and 400-meter (54.6) events at South Lakes.
"My sophomore year [of high school] wasn't my best year, but it was the one that put me on the map," said Baugh, who watched the recruiting letters she had been receiving since her freshman year multiply.
Baugh won the indoor national tournament, and placed third at the US Junior National Meet, which took her to Cuba, Canada and Washington State — where her 4x400-meter relay team set a world record. "I was the youngest person on the US team that year," said Baugh, who was 16 years old at the time. "Half the people were 20 [years old]. Being that young and running with that group, you grow up quick."
Baugh returned home for her junior season after training with the US Olympic team at Colorado Springs, Colo. "You come back to Virginia and you become the one everyone wants to beat," she said. "There were times when I would run a race and they wouldn't give me the preferred lane. I'd still win."
But regardless of the nature of competition, Baugh earned the respect of her competitors, peers and community.
"She was an outstanding student," said former South Lakes Director of Student Activities Bob Graumann. "She was everything that a teacher, coach, and parent would want of a young person. She was the epitome. She is somebody you put up on a pedestal and say this is what you want to be."
AFTER CAPTURING THE indoor 300-meter (40.40) and indoor 500-meter (1:14.81) state titles as a junior, Baugh returned for more medals as a senior.
Baugh and distance-runner Anne Evans shocked the state as the two of them combined for 38 points to best Lake Braddock (36 points) — which at that time was already a four-time state team champion — for the 1988 AAA state indoor track team title. "Anne and Kendyl won the state championship by themselves," remembered former Herndon track coach Mike Dobson.
Evans won the 1600-meter (5:02.60) and 3200-meter (11:00.52) while Baugh took the title in the 300-meter (40.53) to catapult the Seahawks to the 1988 indoor track team title.
"Annie was a great person and she trained really, really hard and she blossomed that one year," said Baugh.
Baugh helped South Lakes to its only track title to date by recovering after a loss.
"In the 500-meter, I went out of the blocks way too fast. The last 20 meters, I was passed and lost that race," she remembered. "I came back 20 minutes later and won in the 300-meter race. That showed people, 'she can be beaten, but still come back and win.'"
In all, Baugh won four state titles in 1987 and two titles in 1988 while a knee injury kept Baugh sidelined on the final day of the AAA outdoor state meet in 1989.
"I wasn't successful because I was winning ," said Baugh, who credited her parents for keeping her focused. "I was successful because I was determined."
Baugh, who was recently inducted into South Lakes High School's first Hall of Fame Class, was determined from a young age.
"I was playing soccer, all the way up until high school," she remembered. "I was always fast in gym. When they would have the presidential, in eighth grade at Langston Hughes [Middle School], I won all my events. I won my first meet with a pair of KSwiss tennis shoes. Halfway through the race [100-meter dash], they said I false-started. It started over, and I still won it."
IT IS THAT KIND OF determination that has helped Baugh, now known as Kendyl Baugh Moss, rebound after the most difficult time in her life. In 2002, Kendyl and husband Cory Moss watched helplessly as their triplet sons, born 26 weeks premature weighing just a little over a pound each, suffered from intestinal complications. Christopher, Kellen and Cale suffered from necrotizing entercolitis — a gastrointestinal disease that can inflame and destroy the bowels of premature children.
Kendyl, who had been so successful in so many other aspects of her life, was devastated when she lost her sons Christoper and Cale just a few months after their birth.
"For something like this to happen, you are like 'what happened?'" said Baugh. "I didn't do anything wrong."
Baugh turned to the lessons she learned from track and her days as an athlete for inspiration to get her through the worst moment of her life.
"I don't think I will ever be through it," said Baugh. "I'm thankful that Kellen is still here and miserable that the other two didn't make it. After all this happened, I went right back to work and people were like 'What are you doing? Why are you back here.'"
"When you get down, you have to get back up," said Baugh.
The former track star works for the National Football League's Atlanta Falcons Youth Organization in Atlanta, Ga. She has designed and implemented the Falcons Force Fitness Zone program — a program that gives Atlanta's youth, some underprivileged, the chance to stay active in their lives.
"I want to make a difference to kids and I feel like helping these kids will be like looking out for my boys," said Baugh.
Kendyl Baugh is 70 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.