Bulldogs shine in rainy state
There may have been clouds and rain, but it was a beautiful day Saturday in Wamego for the Baldwin High School cross country teams. Along with individual titles by Megan and Matt Noonan, the BHS boys finished first and the girls second in the Class 4A State meet.
For the boys, it was their third title in a row, which ties Lansing's early 1990s run for the most consecutive crowns. They'll have the chance to set their own mark next year. The girls' second-place showing was the best ever for a BHS squad.
"We couldn't have probably drawn it up much better," said coach Mike Spielman of the run on state hardware turned in by his teams. "It went as close to perfect as it can get. Almost all the kids ran their fastest time of the year and most of them ran their fastest time ever."
It wasn't easy, by a long shot. The boys were in a dog-fight with second-place Wamego, with each runner playing heavily into the outcome. When the last runners had crossed the finish line, BHS had a slim 52-59 advantage.
Besides Noonan's first-place finish in 16:02.83, the BHS scorecard looked like this: Eric Black, fifth, 16:28.44, which was just two seconds out of second place; Glen Stansberry, 21st; Brayton Gladhart, 24th; Jonathan Strong, 27th; Hans Broers, 41st; and Corey Martinez, 43rd.
"Every single one of them was important," said Spielman. "We packed up there pretty tight. It was real close. I was really sweating it out. I knew when the Clay Center kid went down that they were done and I could concentrate on Wamego."
With each of BHS's finishes, including Noonan's first, Wamego countered with the spot right behind. There was one exception and that proved to be the deciding factor.
"Eric Black got the three card and Wamego's second-place runner got the eight card," he said. "Everyone else was one ahead. Those points by Eric turned out to be the difference."
On the girls' side, every place counted, too. Besides Noonan's first at 11:52.24, BHS's scorecard showed: Eric Ogle, seventh, 12:25.49; Kayla Pringle, 25th; Shawna Trarbach, 36th; Michelle Pressgrove, 53rd; Nicki Frerking, 64th; and Abby Hofmeier, 76th. The Bulldogs finished second with 74 points to El Dorado's 61.
"It's the highest we've ever placed at state," said Spielman. "We got in there and competed. It wasn't an easy victory for El Dorado.
"On the girls side, four of our seven had never run at state before," he said. "They did a great job to run their best race of the year."
Spielman said the key to the girls finish was the inspiration that Noonan has provided for the young team. She has finished first twice and second twice during her high school run.
"Four years ago when she came out the highest we'd finished at state was sixth," he said. "During her time we've got two thirds and a second. Megan is a runner. It's nice for her to have the success."
And it's not like Noonan is the prototypical long-distance runner. She's not tall ... at all.
"I give hope to short girls everywhere," she said. "I don't have that much speed and I don't look like a runner, but I do the best I can do. That's all I can do.
"I'm just proud of my team," she said. "Those other teams better watch out next year because they'll be tough even without me."
And while Megan won't be around next year, brother Matt will and he'll be going for three individual titles in a row and aiming just as hard on the fourth straight team title. It's a tradition he likes.
"It's kind of nice," he said. "When people think of Baldwin runners, I'd like them to think of consistency and quality. We chalk that up to good coaching."
Spielman's plan all season is to have the team peak at state. It's working, as evident by another impressive showing this year.
"It was a team victory," he said of both squads. "We didn't have anyone have a bad race."