Baker And Bunion Honored At The Penn Relays

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Nick Baker of Haddonfield and Lashelle Bunion of Rahway were honored at the 127th Penn Relays presented by Toyota on Saturday for being named Honorary Referees.

They each received commemorative silver Penn Relays batons during a ceremony at Franklin Field.

Baker began coaching the boys' track and cross country teams at Haddonfield over 45 years ago, building one of the preeminent programs in the state. With Baker at the helm, Haddonfield won 35 sectional and 17 state Group titles in cross country and 14 in track and field. The Bulldogs have an active dual meet winning streak in cross country of 238 wins that stretches back 25 years.

Baker has retired from teaching and as the head track coach, but, he continues to lead the Haddonfield boys' cross-country team and is an assistant coach in track.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, Baker emigrated to America with his parents as a boy and was a member of the New York State cross country championship team from Mt. Vernon High School. He later attended Springfield College in Massachusetts.

"This really means a lot to me,'' said Baker. "You don't get into coaching for awards and honors and all that stuff, you do it to help kids reach their potential and prepare them for the future, but it's nice to be recognized by the Penn Relays like this, especially with my family here and lots of people from Haddonfield.

Bunion has been the throws coach at her alma mater, Rahway,  since joining the staff nine years ago. She coaches the girls and boys in the shot, discus and javelin alongside head coach Leon Bunion, her brother. She is also the school's head volleyball coach.

A thrower herself growing up, she did five different events in college, at American International College, in Springfield, Mass.- the shot put, discus, javelin, hammer and indoor weight.

Bunion earned her bachelor's and master's in education at American International, and within the year had been hired at Rahway. She had no coaching experience but had been mentored by her own coach in high school, Brad Edwards. "I wanted to give back to my community," she says.

Two of her throwers at Rahway have competed at the Relays. Stacey Saint-Paul finished eighth in the shot put in 2018, and Jordan West made the Relays three times as a prep. After competing in the shot as a sophomore in 2015, he placed fifth in the discus in '16 and third in '17.

West continued on to an excellent college career, achieving All-American status at both Tennessee and Arkansas.

"I'm very ecstatic to receive this honor,'' said Bunion. "This is just my ninth year coaching, so this inspires me to push myself to be an even better coach.''

Is this the biggest moment of her coaching career so far?

"Big time,'' said Bunion. "It's right there along with Jordan being the first the first American here.''