The Roundup -

Local Teen Takes 2nd in National Taekwondo

 

Caleb Baxter with his father and coach Jerrold Baxter

Sidney's Caleb Baxter recently took second place at the 2018 USA Taekwondo National Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The 14-year old, up-coming freshman is currently a blue belt, and faced opponent Blake Thompson from Burns, Oregon on Thursday, July 5th. The championships brought in athletes from across the country, from age 12 all the way through adults, paired in sparring events based on belt color and weight.

To qualify for the National Championships, an athlete has to participate in the state qualifier, which was held in Billings in April. Though Caleb was uncontested in his belt and weight class, he participated in the forms section, and won two first place medals. Having qualified, Caleb and his father Jerrold, felt that Salt Lake City was close enough to travel to make it to Nationals.

Caleb began his Taekwondo career on a whim, at the recommendation of a friend in Missoula, where he lived for several years. When his family moved to Fairview seven years ago, Caleb continued to train under Mike Berg, at Sidney Tendokan Taekwondo. Upon moving to Eastern Montana, Jerrold picked the sport back up, and was able to coach Caleb at Nationals.

USA Taekwondo is heavily regulated, and in order to be on the mat with his son, Jerrold, currently a second dan black belt, had to get registered as an official associate coach. "I couldn't be on the floor with my own son without passing a background check, and be vetted and pass a coaching course," he said.

The event in Salt Lake City was "huge, like nothing I've ever seen before," said Jerrold. The event held 17 rings, over 2500 participants from all of the US, and was 10 days long. Events were held in each belt and weight class, for both males and females.

In the sparring match against Thompson, Caleb fought well, but lost 10-7. Scoring is kept electronically, using specialized gear that adds points based on contact between the opponents. Jerrold adds that "any time you commit a penalty the other person gets points. Caleb had 6 penalties against him, so the other person only scored 4 points. He had a really nice head kick, which should have been 3 points, but he fell down so got 1 point against him." Caleb received a medal for second place.

Of the event Caleb said, "After I lost my match and got second place, I felt like I could have been better. I'm going to keep training and continue on, and do better things, like go to nationals again or go to the Olympics." Once Caleb earns his black belt, he can enter the World Class division. If an athlete places first, second or third in the World Class division, he or she can move on to the Junior Olympics, representing Team USA.

Jerrold stresses that taekwondo has its roots in martial arts, and is really a competitive sport. "When you train the martial arts, you focus on lots of power and very pretty kicks, whereas the martial sport focuses on speed, accuracy, power. It's a lot like a boxing match, using traps for bait, and it's very strategic. Watching people at high levels set up points in really interesting," he explained. In some other countries, taekwondo has become a professional sport to the level of American professional football. "Mexico has a pro league, their players are paid millions like our pro football players. It's catching on."

Through Taekwondo, Caleb has been able to meet several successful Taekwondo athletes, including Steve Lambden, an Olympic Heavyweight in Taekwondo, who took 11th place at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Caleb had the opportunity to take a seminar and train with Lambden in Missoula two years ago.

When asked what he enjoys about taekwondo, Caleb replied, "I like travelling and meeting cool people who enjoy taekwondo".

 

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