High school cross country teams add two more state titles
For the Baldwin High School cross country teams, it's a matter of finding competition from within. Both the boys and girls repeated their Class 4A championships at Wamego Saturday, but who really won?
Well, it was the boys -- but that's for the chow line only. The Bulldog boys won their sixth straight state title, while the girls came up with their second. But, as this BHS dynasty continues to grow, its gone beyond just winning team championships.
"The boys and girls have come up with a contest for who can score the fewest points," said coach Mike Spielman. "The winner gets to eat first."
This time around, at state, it was the boys. They scored 52 points, while the girls scored 82. As for the second-place teams in their divisions, Wamego had 87 points on the boys side and the Colby girls had 112. That also gave the boys the upper hand in margin of victory, but not by much -- 35-30.
"There definitely is some healthy competition between the teams," said senior Phil Wagner. "At a lot of meets the team with the lowest score gets to eat first in whatever we do after the meet. The competition really heats up then. Of course, we all want each other to win, but each team wants to win by the biggest margin.
"I would say we put the hurt on the girls at state," said Wagner. "The guys' team is giving them a little grief about ho we beat them by 30 points. Of course, we are just happy that we all won. That's definitely most important."
After eight titles, though, it's getting hard to keep track, at least for some.
"It's starting to blend in," said Spielman. "A lot of people will ask is this four in a row or five or how many? The ones that are in it know exactly how many it is."
And, no, six straight for the boys is not a record. That's another thing that keeps BHS going. Shawnee Mission Northwest won the Class 6A title again Saturday to make it 10 straight. It was one of the first items of business for the BHS boys to ask about after completing their sixth -- did Northwest win? Now it's up to next year's bunch.
"The tradition kind of keeps things going," he said. "Each group doesn't want to be the one to the break the string. It's pretty special.
"The nice thing is there are young kids who haven't been in on it for all of them," said Spielman. "Sometimes, I think it's taken for granted."
BHS winning the cross country title, death and taxes is starting to fall together.
"We hope it keeps going even longer," he said. "All streaks have to come to an end. We just hope it's on down the road."
Everyone asks what the secret is and the runners know.
"I couldn't think of a better way to spend my four years in high school," said Wagner. "To think that at the end of everyone of those four years I've come back from Wamego a part of a state championship team is pretty special. That has little to do with me, though.
"I honestly believe that for most part we are just average athletes that are a byproduct of coach Spielman's system," he said. "He's just a great coach."
As the numbers continue to mount on consecutive titles, the targets on the backs of BHS's runners get bigger. Everyone shoots for beating Baldwin. That pressure affects the younger runners more than the veterans, Spielman said.
"The kids have gotten better about it," he said. "The kids that are new feel it more than the others. They feel it mostly at their first regional and then at state. But once they've done it, it's usually gone. It just takes that one year to know it."
Something else that the long-time cross country coach has noticed is his colleagues' attitude about the state meet.
"I had a couple of coaches tell me they were just shooting for second because we're so far out there," said Spielman. "I hope they aren't giving up. But, I think it's a nice compliment. It's a good compliment for the kids and gives them confidence."
Confidence is one thing, but it's the hard work during the off season and during the running schedule that sets the Bulldogs apart. They run countless miles in preparation for the cross country season in all sorts of conditions. And, most of all, they keep it fun.
"They've really got a great workman mentality about them," he said. "It's not drudgery. They have fun with it. They really enjoy being around each other and that makes it really nice."
Of course it also makes it nice that there are six straight titles for the boys and now two for the girls to show for that hard work.
"There are a lot of schools that don't have a state championship in anything," said Spielman.
That's certainly not the case in title town Baldwin.