Dogs take fourth title
Baldwin High School's fourth straight Class 4A team title at the State Cross Country meet Saturday in Wamego put the Bulldogs in an elite group collectively, but also put them by themselves.
BHS's eight-point win over Tonganoxie Saturday gave the Bulldogs that fourth consecutive 4A crown, which is something that's never happened in that classification. Hays has won four Class 5A crowns and Shawnee Mission Northwest in 6A and Wheatfield in 1A have done better than that with eight straight titles.
Those four titles have BHS coach Mike Spielman beaming and he knows it's because of a group of seniors, led by Matt Noonan, Eric Black and Glen Stansberry, who've made the difference.
"We had a great group of seniors," said Spielman. "These kids have come out to the state meet four times and won it four times. That's amazing."
Of course, lead Dog Noonan is most amazing. He won his third straight individual Class 4A title to join his own elite group. Only six other runners in history have won three titles. None have won four. And, Noonan finished second by two seconds his freshman year or it could have been four titles. If that's not enough, Noonan's time Saturday of 15:44.61 was a school record and it was also the top time turned in for the entire state in Saturday's races from Class 6A on down.
"He's the best distance runner in the state of Kansas," said Spielman. "He beat everyone in all classes. Saturday was a perfect day. He set a new school record on his last chance."
Black was sixth at 16:43.39. Stansberry was 12th at 17:02.42. Then, as it turned out, were the all-important other finishes. Junior Brayton Gladhart was 35th at 17:41.16; and sophomores Phil Wagner was 36th at 17:43.22, Edd Stansberry, 56th, at 18:06.56, and Jonathan Strong, 60th, at 18:08.32.
The title didn't come easily, though. BHS's 60 points edged out Tonganoxie, which had 68. It was a similar situation last year when the Bulldogs edged Wamego by six points to claim their third title.
"That's two years in a row that's happened," said Spielman. "After we finished Saturday, I added up the cards and it was 60 and I said no way we can get beat. But then someone said Tonganoxie ran well and, sure enough, they had 68. If we hadn't run good races both years, we would have got beat.
"The thing we've had all year is depth and that's what won it for us," he said, adding that next year's team will benefit from that and will be a group to contend with. "On the way home, Phil Wagner said everyone was saying we aren't going to be any good next year and he takes that as a challenge. We just want to keep it going."
It's all about tradition and he pointed to Shawnee Mission Northwest's eighth Class 6A title this year. Lawrence had beaten Northwest several times this year, but when it came time for state, Northwest prevailed.
"That's what we want to do," said Spielman. "We want to keep that tradition going. I keep telling them, it's a long journey."