Sunflower events hit Baldwin
While some of the best athletes in America competed in California at the U.S. Olympic trials, the Sunflower State Games brought some of Kansas's best athletes to Baldwin over the weekend. Around 450 athletes competed in the track portion of the state games at Liston Stadium and the Bill Hey Track on Friday and Saturday. Sunflower State athletes ranged from 6-years-old to 83-years-young.
"The popularity of the track portion is continuing to increase," said Mike Spielman, Baldwin High School track coach and meet organizer. "The meet brought about 1,000 people to Baldwin. With help from the Sunflower State Games organizers and volunteers, it was a big success."
There were several local athletes competing in the meet, and one of the top performances in the track and field competition came from former Baldwin High School All-American Darrin Kurtz in the javelin. Kurtz competed on the same field where six years ago he launched the javelin 236-8 which was the best high school throw in the nation that year. Similar to the throw in '94, the jaws of observers dropped as he threw this weekend. Kurtz's best throw of 215-0 was within 10 feet of qualifying him for the Olympic trials. It easily took first in his division by 70 feet.
"Darrin's throw was definitely one of the best performances of the meet," said Speilman. "For him just to have lightly practiced for a couple of weeks and then throw well enough to almost qualify for the trials, he still has a lot of natural talent."
Several other local athletes had strong performances in the state games.
Kerry Martinez, competing in the 35-39 age group, earned three golds by winning the 200-meter dash (34.05), 1,500 (7:12.52) and the 5,000 (15:13.67). Baker University athlete Candace Fortney also had a triple-win meet. Competing in the 19-29 age group, she won the 100 (13.34), 100 high hurdles (16.46) and the long jump (16-3).
Baker University assistant track coach Bob Mallinder, who also helped organize the games at Baker, won the 200 (26.86) and 400 (60.43) and finished second in the 100 (12.80) in the 30-34 age group.
Other first-place finishes from local athletes were turned in by Alli Walbridge, a '97 BHS graduate and former all-state high jumper, in the high jump (4-8), Eric Brown, a junior-to-be at BHS, in the javelin (169-2), and Matt Noonan in the 1,500 (4:11.85). Noonan also placed second in the javelin (138-3) ahead of teammate Wesley Broyles, who placed fifth in the javelin (122).
Joshua Woods competed in two 12-13 age group throwing events. Woods placed third in the discus with a throw of 50-11 and fifth in the shot put with a throw of 23-5.25.
Other Baker athletes competing in the track competition were sprinters Kevin Schmidt and Mackie Valentin. Schmidt edged out his teammate in the 200 (24.05) for a fourth-place finish, and came across the line in third in the 400 (52.45). Valentin placed fifth in the 100 (11.55) and 200 (24.19). The 19-29 age group 100 which Valentine placed fifth in was one of the most competitive events of the day with two Fort Hays State University sprinters and several junior college athletes in the race.
Future Baker trackster Angie Heffner, the Class 4A State Champ in the pole vault from Santa Fe Trail High School, placed third in the 17-18 pole vault (10-5.5).
Dakota Criqui and Maurissa Shaffer, who were out of town athletes that competed for the Baldwin Track Club this summer, also competed in the games. Criqui, who lives near Pomona, competed in the 13-14 age group and placed first in the 3,000 (10:10.12), second in the 1,500 (4:42.70) and fourth in the 800 (2:18.56). Shaffer, who is from Garnett and competed in the 9-10 age group, placed second in the 400 (1:16.54) and third in the 800 (3:08.27).