Garcia tops 2006 stories with golden year
Baldwin High School junior Heather Garcia was hard to beat in 2006 as she won 27 of her 32 individual races en route to three state championships.
Garcia dominated the Class 4A running competition with her 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter run track titles and 4-kilometer cross country state victory.
"Everything worked out the way it needed to," Garcia said of her remarkable year. "It was better than I had hoped."
BHS cross country coach Mike Spielman said Garcia worked hard to have the success she was rewarded with.
"She had one of those years that people can only dream about having," Spielman said. "She didn't get beat very often and when she did, they were really good people and she ran fast times. She won two state titles in track and one in cross country. That's a pretty good year, when you can rack up those kind of awards and be consistent."
Garcia said her favorite meet of the year was the state track meet. That weekend, she competed in the 1,600-meter relay twice and once in the 800-meter run, 1,600 and 3,200 races.
She won the 1,600 and 3,200, but placed second in the 800. She also helped the 1,600 relay set the school record and place fourth.
"State track was the best part of my year, because I did so many events," Garcia said. "I would run one race and then go on to the next one. It was really cool."
In early December, Garcia traveled to Orlando, Fla. to compete in the Amateur Athletic Union Cross Country Championships 17-18-year-old age group. Garcia won the 5-kilometer race in a time of 17:54, adding a national title to her list of accolades.
During her 2006 campaign, Garcia set numerous school records. In track, she rewrote her own records in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200.
She set the 800 record at 2:19.98 at the state meet. Her other track records were set at the Frontier League meet. She ran 5:03.65 and 11:02.69.
Garcia also set the BHS 4K cross country record at the state meet. She ran 14:05.25.
"She didn't just win a lot of races, she ran fast," Spielman said. "That's a testament to being able to push herself. She's got a lot of ability."
Since she only lost five races all year, Garcia said it was tough to find a downfall to her year.
"If I had to choose something, I guess it would be KU (Rim Rock Invitational)," Garcia said. "I wasn't disappointed, so I don't think I could complain about the race."
Rim Rock was the only cross country meet where Garcia was beaten. She finished second to Allison Eckert from Sioux Falls Roosevelt, S.D. In track, she placed second three times and third once, but never worse.
At the University of Kansas Relays, Garcia placed second in the 3,200 and third in the 1,600. She also finished second in the 800 at the KT Woodman Invitational and the 4A state meet, both to El Dorado's Laura Nightengale.
Spielman and Garcia are both looking forward to the 2007 track and cross country campaigns, to see if she can continue running at such a high level.
"We're hoping she has a big junior year in track and senior year in cross country," Spielman said. "It would be really neat to see if she can keep putting it together. I think the sky is the limit. It will be fun to see how far she ends up going."
Here are the other top sports stories from 2006.
1. Tennis phenom travels internationally
Baldwin City's Chloe Jones capped off a year filled with trips to Wimbledon and the U.S. Open with being named the best female tennis player in a five-state region.
Jones was honored as the 2006 United States Tennis Association Missouri Valley Junior Female Player of the Year.
In the past year, Jones has visited Southeast Asia for several tournaments in March. During the trip, she went to Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines. In late June, Jones traveled to England to play in the Wimbledon girls' junior championships.
At the end of the summer, she played at the U.S. Open junior tournament. Jones has recently taken some time away from tennis to heal an injury, but she hopes to have a good 2007 campaign.
2. Cross country championship streak ends
Like all good things, the Baldwin High School boys' cross country team's streak of consecutive Class 4A state titles came to an end in late October.
After winning eight straight championships, the Bulldogs were beaten by El Dorado at the state meet this year. BHS lost by seven points as El Dorado won with 63 team points.
"It had to end sometime and that's part of the deal," coach Mike Spielman said of the streak of titles.
The streak of consecutive titles dated back to 1998, when the Bulldogs tied Ulysses, but won the sixth-man tie breaker. In 1997, Baldwin placed second at state, which makes 10 top two state finishes in the last 10 years.
3. Eric Brown takes runner-up at nationals
University of Arkansas senior Eric Brown came up short of his national championship bid in the javelin, but secured runner-up honors at the 2006 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Sacramento, Calif.
The 2002 Baldwin High School graduate finished second and racked up the third top-five NCAA finish of his career, after garnering third place as a sophomore and fourth place as a junior. Brown turned in a mark of 238-3 to finish second.
During the spring season, Brown posted nearly a dozen throws of over 240-0, including five of six throws when he won the Southeastern Championship in May.
He dominated the conference field with a winning throw of 251-9. Brown also recorded the longest throw by a collegiate this year when he recorded a mark of 256-3 at the University Kansas Relays.
4. Callahan finishes second at state wrestling
After finishing fourth as a freshman, Baldwin High School's Kevin Callahan placed runner-up at the Class 4A state wrestling tournament in February.
In his championship match, Callahan fell just short of the title as he lost to Blake Fisher from Andale 5-2.
"Kevin making the finals was really exciting," coach Kit Harris said. "In the finals, he ran into a two-time state champ from Andale, who is really just a better wrestler at this point. Kevin wrestled hard, but he just fell short. He made a really great run at a state title."
Callahan is 16-1 this season so far and has moved up to fifth place on the all-time wins list with 105 victories. He is one win behind fourth place and six behind third.
5. Liston Stadium renovations completed
It was delayed a couple of weeks, but in late August Baker University's historic Liston Stadium was finally opened back up after nine months of construction.
Baker's third and final phase of the stadium's improvements included a new eight-lane track, artificial turf field, new visitor bleachers and a paved parking lot north of the stadium.
The field turf was first to be finished. The eight-lane track was completed last in the project. The track straight-aways were lengthened to fit inside the complex, making the turns tighter. Baker will now be eligible to host a conference meet.
There were several other small improvements inside or around the stadium. Baker looks to one day expand the home bleachers and move the concession stand.
6. Packers hire Baker alum
Baker University alumnus Mike McCarthy, who played football for the Wildcats in the mid-1980s was named head coach of the National Football League's Green Bay Packers in January.
McCarthy became the first Baker alumnus to lead a major pro sports team when he was hired.
"To me, it's a dream job," said Baker University football coach Mike Grossner, who was a teammate of McCarthy at Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College. "If you have aspirations of being an NFL coach, I would think the Green Bay Packers head coaching position would be a dream job."
Since his hiring, McCarthy has led the Packers to three straight victories and a 6-9 record, two wins better than last year.
McCarthy played tight end and was a team captain on Baker's 1986 team that finished 9-2 and reached the NAIA Div. II championship. He graduated in 1987 with a business degree.
7. BHS girls can't repeat at state
Despite returning its top six runners from the state title-winning team a year ago, the Baldwin High School girls' cross country team couldn't repeat as state champions in October.
It was the second time in three years that the Bulldogs have placed second at the Class 4A meet. In 2002, 2003 and 2005, Baldwin left Wamego with a state title, but was runner-up in 2004.
De Soto won the girls' title with 63 points, while Baldwin scored 83 to take runner up. BHS junior Heather Garcia won the meet.
Senior Kelsey Verhaeghe was the other Bulldog medalist at the meet. Verhaeghe ran 15:33 to place 18th.
8. BHS boys' track team takes second
It came down to the final race, but the Baldwin High School boys' track team was beaten by Abilene at the state track meet in May by six points.
The Bulldogs scored in every running event, but the 110-meter hurdles and the 800-meter run.
BHS' Aaron Mills and 2006 graduate Jeremy Wright placed first and third in the long jump, respectively. Mills jumped 22-8 3/4, which tied the school record that Wright held. Wright leaped 22-4 Â½ to place third.
After the long jump, Mills placed third in the 100-meter dash (10.81) and second in the 200-meter dash (22.14).
BHS 2006 graduate Aaron Hannon won the 300-meter hurdles by running 39.4 seconds. The Bulldogs also set many records during the 2006 season.
9. Baker football wins 500th game
A 27-0 shutout over Avila University on Oct. 21 was a historic victory for the Baker University football team.
The win was the first by the Wildcats on the new artificial turf field. It was also the 500th victory for the program.
"We were the last ones to win on it," Baker coach Mike Grossner said. "That, combined with the 500th win for the program as well as being Maple Leaf weekend, made it a pretty good weekend overall."
Baker scored touchdowns on a blocked punt, fake field goal, quarterback sneak and a 3-yard run by 2004 Baldwin High School graduate Micah Mason.
10. BHS wins all-league sports standings
For the second time in three years, Baldwin High School won the all-league sports standings.
The Bulldogs scored 121 points as it held off Paola (117), Ottawa (116) and Eudora (113).
"I think we have a lot of successful programs in many areas," wrestling coach Kit Harris said. "This is one example that shows how hard work can lead to success."
Baldwin led by a minimal margin after the winter sports' season, but a strong spring season helped the Bulldogs capture the crown. All of the five spring sports placed in the top half of the league.
Honorable mention: Eric Toot returns to BHS to coach boys basketball; Baldwin Junior High School eighth grade girls finish season undefeated; Dustin Schiller and Josh Beaulieu place seventh at state tennis; BHS wrestling team wins first regional title in 17 years; Charlie Richard inducted into Kansas Sports Hall of Fame; Several new coaches take over struggling BHS teams.