Cross country teams prove to be double trouble
Baldwin High School carried home its usual state championship from the Class 4A Cross Country Meet Saturday in Wamego, but this time there were two.
The BHS boys won the Bulldog's fifth-straight title one for the thumb, so to speak while the BHS girls got into the act for the first time ever. It wasn't close in either race, either, with the boys winning by 18 points and the girls by a whopping 45 points.
"It was unbelievable," said coach Mike Spielman. "We knew going in if we did what we should do we could do it. But going in and doing it is another thing. Being ranked No. 1 for weeks gave us some confidence."
Both the boys and girls went into Saturday's race with those No. 1 rankings. Both Bulldog squads proved they were worthy of those lofty spots with their performances.
It was sweet for both teams, too. After the Matt Noonan era ended with his three individual titles and the four team titles, many predicted doom for the storied BHS cross country tradition. Didn't happen. And, for the first time, the BHS girls got into the act by winning the team title without an individual champ, which the BHS girls have had throughout the last six storied years.
It was a "pack mentality" for the boys all year. Junior Phil Wagner had the top finish at 13th Saturday, but the rest of the pack was close behind. Keith Cowart was 22nd, Zac Towns 23rd, Brian Gerstner 26th, Sam Hinton 32nd, Edd Stansberry 33rd and Jonathan Strong 34th.
"This year we didn't have the low scores, but we had the pack," said Spielman. "That was it, a pack mentality. You watch the race and you feel pretty good and then you count up the points and it's 84. Tonganoxie had a couple runners ahead of Phil, but the pack just kind of separated us."
Spielman is used to boys titles, so the girls made the trip to the Wamego Country Club even better this time around.
"We were second a couple of years ago and we've had a couple of thirds. We've always run well at state, but going in No. 1 we knew we had a chance," he said.
BHS had two top-10 runners with junior Erica Ogle finishing fourth and freshman Denise Orloff finishing seventh. They were followed by Abby Hofmeier in 25th, Amy Craig 30th, Michelle Pressgrove 33rd, Missy Westgate 48th and Kayla Pringle 58th.
"We ran really well on the girls side," said Spielman. "Yeh, it was a blowout. What made a difference on the girls side was we had the two low scores and the pack. We were able to step it up."
It wasn't the first time that one school had won both the boys and girls titles, but it hasn't happened very often.
"We were looking to see who had won both 4A titles," he said. "(Topeka) Hayden has done it, but no one else."
The double had everyone smiling since it was a first for BHS. But, the girls were extremely pleased.
"All the kids enjoyed it," said Spielman. "The girls were tired of being second fiddle. They wanted their piece of the pie and they certainly got it."
Of course, that's not to lessen the boys title, either. This year's crew didn't much appreciate the talk that the title run was over with the graduation of Noonan and cohorts last year. Now it's that "one for the thumb" with the fifth straight title.
"I guess that's true," he said of inference of championship rings. "We were riding the bus last year and Phil Wagner came up and said 'everyone thinks it's over.' He said, 'we're going to be all right, coach.'
"They really didn't doubt they could be there. We had a lot of kids that stepped up. All kinds of crazy things can happen at state. I told them there are some freshmen who want your spots. That's going to further the tradition. Take it to a new level."
And, this is a young crew, too, on both sides.
"Especially on the boys side where we had seven boys and four had never run at state. There are crazy things that can happen out there. There's a lot of pressure," Spielman said. "It was the same thing for the girls with two freshmen, but the others had been there."
There was a streak that came to an end, however, for BHS cross country. Since Amanda Morford won the individual girls title in 1997, there has been a BHS individual champ since Megan Noonan won two and Matt Noonan won three, including a dual championship in 2001 with the siblings.
But there has never been a double team title. Like Spielman said, this takes the tradition to a new level.