Archive for Thursday, December 28, 2006

Column: State titles escape BHS teams in ‘06

December 28, 2006

Oh, what a year it's been.

The past 12 months have been busy with successes and failures at Baldwin High School and Baker University. There have been coaching changes, facility updates and numerous records broken along the way.

What's missing? Oh yeah, state championships. For the first time in at least eight years, BHS failed to win a state title in any sport.

I wouldn't call it failure though, because three teams placed second in Class 4A. In May, the boys' track team lost to Abilene by six points, despite a great effort all meet long. The Bulldogs scored in every running event, but two. That's amazing. It wasn't the only time a Baldwin team competed well but was beaten.

One of the biggest, but saddest stories of the year happened in October. The BHS boys' cross country team's streak of eight consecutive state titles came to a screeching halt.

Baldwin began the season a bit rough, but kept progressing. By late October, it looked like BHS might keep the streak alive and hold off De Soto for the title.

At state the Bulldogs ran well; in fact they ran great. All year, they were looking for a consistent fifth man. Senior Nathan Dick answered that call with a personal best time and race.

When the race finished, I knew Baldwin had beaten De Soto, but I wasn't sure they had won. El Dorado came out of the woodwork and ran a tremendous race. It had three runners in the top 10. When combined with the rest of the team, it was good enough to win the title and dethrone the reigning champs.

It was a sad day, especially as part of the team that started the streak. I wasn't disappointed in the team at all, because I knew the boys gave everything they had. I was just sad to see the streak end. I honestly didn't think the streak would continue after the BHS class of 2002, which included Matt Noonan, Eric Black, Glen Stansberry and Hans Broers, graduated.

Coach Mike Spielman finds a way to get his team competing tough when the time is right. He wasn't disappointed in the second-place finish and neither was the team. Most teams would give anything to be second in the state. Next year's team will have to start the streak again.

Although the boys were the big story at the state cross country meet, they weren't the only ones disappointed. The BHS girls' team also came up second, as it was beaten by De Soto.

Baldwin seemed to be a lock in August as it returned its top six girls from the 2005 state title team. A couple nagging injuries hurt the team during the season, but De Soto stepped up and ran well. You have to give them credit and it should make next fall's meet fairly exciting.

Despite the lack of team title, Baldwin High had 105 pounds to cheer about. Heather Garcia, or "Stick" as she is better known at BHS, captured enough gold medals in 2006 to start her own pawn shop.

She won 27 of 32 individual races during the year, including three state championships in track and cross country. She never lost a race to her rival Brittney Graff of Eudora.

You wouldn't know it from talking to her, but she has the confidence that a great runner needs. She is humble and nervous about every race.

She kept setting record after record during track, most of which were her own. But maybe the most impressive race she ran in track was only one lap long.

During the prelims of the 1,600-meter relay at the state meet, Garcia anchored the Baldwin team in a time of 56 seconds. Three clocks confirmed the time, because they had her at 55.9, 56.0 and 56.1.

When I heard the time, I almost fell over. Not many high school girls, let alone distance runners, can run that fast. Most distance runners are lucky to have any speed at all, let alone 56 speed.

Garcia could have easily won the Class 4A 400-meter title if she was entered. The ability to run that fast adds a whole new dimension to her talents. This track season will be fun to watch, I know that much.

I also know that Garcia is on pace to be compared to or better than Noonan, who owns many school records and state championships. He was never able to pull the big triple at state (800, 1,600 and 3,200), because Black always beat him in the 800.

Garcia has the chance to pull off that feat, maybe even the quadruple if you add the 400. Well, that might be stretching it, but who knows where her talent will take her.

I am looking forward to watching her during the 2007 year, along with many other BHS athletes and teams. I think the Counting Crows said it best with their hit song "Long December" when they said, "A long December and there's reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last."

Here's to looking forward to 2007.

Go Bulldogs.

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