Boys' Soccer Peak Performer of the Year

The Classical Academy's soccer program means a lot to Jackson Baker. 

As a freshman at TCA in 2019, Baker commuted to Highlands Ranch to be part of a year-round developmental academy. The highest level of club sports, the team was part of the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy and was affiliated with Major League Soccer. It is now known as MLS Next.

Unable to play for the both the developmental academy and The Classical Academy, Baker made the decision during his sophomore season to stick with the friends he grew up with.

Now a graduating senior, he's made the most of the opportunity, breaking  TCA's single-season goal record set in 2010. 

"I've known these guys for a lot of my life and it's just so fun to get to work so hard on something together," he said. "I don't think I would trade it for anything. I think I made the right decision playing with all my friends. I think it's been a blast. I had a really, really fun high school career."

The 2022 boys' soccer Peak Performer of the Year, Baker scored 36 goals over the course of 15 games, surpassing the previous record of 32 goals over 20 games by then-sophomore Evan Young more than a decade prior.

The journey to 36 goals began while Baker was in the school gym before the start of the season.

"I'm very much a person who likes to work toward a goal," Baker said, "and one day I was just in the gym and I saw the banner and I saw the goal record. ... I was like, 'You know what, it's going to be me. It's my time. I want to leave my mark on the school.'"

Baker broke Young's record in the team's 13th game on Oct. 20 against Sierra.

It's one of his favorite moments from the season. 

Ten minutes into the second half of what ended as a blowout win over the Stallions, Baker got the ball just past midfield, spun past a defender, and fed the ball to junior teammate Clayton Baxter Dorny. Dorny gave the ball right back to Baker, and he scored while colliding with Sierra’s goalkeeper.

Baker raced up the sidelines in jubilation after the score, hyping his student section. But Dorny's selflessness wasn't lost on him. 

"The record-breaking goal I scored against Sierra in the second half was super cool not only because I scored it but I played it through to Baxter who had a wide-open goal and decided to pass it to me instead because he knew that I wanted the record so bad," he said. 

The play between Baker and Dorny that night is symbolic of Baker's season as as whole, balancing his own objectives with that of his team. One of his favorite aspects about the sport of soccer is that it allows him to excel as both a teammate and as an individual. 

It was a point of conversation between Baker and Titans head coach Blake Galvin when the senior soccer player first approached his coach about breaking the record. 

Baker didn't let Galvin down. Not only did he lead the Titans in goals in 2022 but in assists as well. When Baker broke the record in that league-clinching contest against Sierra, Galvin said there were some players on the team who didn't even know what he had accomplished.

"We've had some other really, really phenomenal goal scorers. We had one who was a two-time high school All-American who was not able to break the record and so it's tough," Galvin said. "I think we probably got into the middle of the season and all kind of realized, 'You know, gosh, if he keeps going along this same path, he may really break it.' We just didn't talk about it a whole lot at that point and just kind of let Jackson do his thing and play soccer." 

Baker has been doing his thing on the pitch since he was 3 years old. No other sports. Just high school soccer in the fall, club soccer in the spring and indoor soccer during the winter. 

Following the Titans' 4A first-round playoff loss Baker already found himself at an out-of-state showcase in November for his club team alongside longtime friend and teammate Joshua Vu. 

Baker has committed to play soccer at Cedarville University in Ohio after his senior year. 

More than the goals and the work ethic what Galvin will remember the most about Baker is his personality.

Galvin said that before each practice Baker would try to reach out to every player on the team, varsity or junior varsity, and see how they were doing. After intense practice sessions, he'd do the same thing trying to say a word to everyone on their way out. 

"My hope is that (people) will talk more than anything about the kind of person that he is," Galvin said of Baker's legacy. "He is a good kid, he's a good human being and so I'm hopeful that's the first thing that comes to mind."