Conor Baird has etched his name even further into the Trumansburg boys soccer record books. Already the all-time leading goal-scorer in school history, the senior tallied two assists and a goal on Sept. 16 to push his career point total to 87, a school record.
The record was previously held by Abreham Kittel, a 2014 graduate of Charles O. Dickerson High School who was named to the All-State team and awarded the IAC MVP award during his tenure with the Blue Raiders. Baird is beyond honored to fill those shoes.
“It feels pretty good. I always looked up to [Abreham Kittel] before I got here. I never played with him, but I always heard about him,” Baird said. “He’s kind of an idol. It’s cool to kind of be him. That gives me great confidence moving forward.”
It’s hard to ignore being on the brink of breaking a school record that stood for several years. Baird did not let the idea deter his focus for his final season and is instead seeing it as a symbol of his ability.
“Going into the season, I was pretty aware [of the record], but before that, it wasn’t really a big idea of mine,” Baird said. “It’s still not really a big focus. It just puts extra knowledge into what I can do. It shows I have potential.”
Baird was not always destined for greatness in soccer. In his own words, he was “awful” when he began playing during recess in sixth grade (a relatively late start). Despite his lack of skills on the playground, people kept urging him to take up the sport. Baird conceded and joined the club team that year.
He had the right coaches at the start of his career, as they kept him on the right path to develop his skills early on.
“The coaches were great with me,” Baird said. “They really encouraged me and didn’t complain because I put effort in.”
Conor explained that his abilities didn’t turn a corner until three years later, the summer prior to his freshman year of high school.
“In freshman year, I did a summer clinic, an overnight one [at SUNY Cortland],” he said. “I watched everyone else and they were so much better than me and I just got motivated. I just wanted to go.”
That motivation has driven him to the record books of his high school. With a great high school career coming to an end after this season, playing in college is a certainty.
Kittel ended up playing for four years at Division III Keystone College, scoring 36 points in his NCAA career. Like the previous record-holder, Baird would like to play at the next level as well but isn’t quite settled on where he’d like to take his talents.
“I definitely want to play at the next level. It’s a bit more difficult finding where. School-wise, I’ve always wanted to go to IC. My dad worked there, and he’s always on my mind,” Baird said. “Cortland State too, because I know all the coaches. They’re fantastic and they’re like friends more than coaches. I don’t really have a big idea of what’s next.”
While he doesn’t have a school locked down, Ithaca and Cortland are great starting points, as both currently hold a spot in the NCAA Division III top-25 rankings.
Before Baird makes that next step, he’s had the opportunity to diversify his game this year. After playing primarily as a striker in his career, Baird has transitioned to midfield for his final year.
“I enjoy it. I always wanted to play midfield, be more involved. It gives me the chance to help other people understand how to move forward,” Baird said. “And it gives me more ability to connect with other people on the team instead of just being isolated up top. I have more mobility.”
Baird was also named as one of three senior captains of the team this year. Baird knows he can’t lead alone and is happy to be joined by two longtime teammates in that role.
“It’s good because I have two other captains with me who are just solid: Kaden Civiletto and Richard Prosser in goal. I’m not perfect when I lead,” Baird said. “I have flaws, I get upset, and they bring me back to my calm self. Everybody on the team is really great, and they listen.”
The trio shares more than simply wearing the same armband on game days, and the bond between Baird, Civiletto and Prosser makes the team stronger as a whole.
“We’re pretty close. I started playing soccer late. U12 maybe is when I started, so we’ve been together ever since,” said Baird. “We have classes together throughout the day. We’re more family than friends.”
This is a special season for Trumansburg soccer, with 13 seniors on the team including Conor. The Blue Raiders fell to eventual state champions Lansing in the Section IV finals last season and will look for their experience to carry them over that hump.
“I feel like we have a solid opportunity on our hands. I feel like our team is good depth-wise. We all understand our roles,” Baird said. “Moving forward, I feel like we need to clean stuff up. We have good effort. We have good technical skills. It’s just coming together as a team that’s going to move us to the next level.”
At the writing of this article, the Blue Raiders are 5-1 in Baird’s final season. While there may be few records left for him to break, the senior’s goals are team-oriented as he looks to lead Trumansburg to its first sectional championship since 2010.
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