Boys’ title decided by final race
WICHITA -- With a win and a little bit of help in the 1,600-meter relay, the Baldwin High School boys' track would have won the Class 4A state title here Saturday.
Instead of the heroic victory, the Bulldogs were beaten by Abilene, who raced well enough all weekend to win the meet with 75 points. BHS finished runner-up with 69.
"Our goal was ultimately to win it, so I think the kids were a little disappointed," coach Mike Spielman said. "We just got beat by a very good team. Abilene had a great meet. They deserved to win it. I am really happy with second place."
Senior Aaron Hannon said Abilene stepped up, competed well and deserved the championship.
"They came to win today and that's the only thing we can say," Hannon said of Abilene. "Everything went right for them and even better than expected. They were here to win."
Senior John Brown said only one team can be the winner, even though second place doesn't feel like the Bulldogs lost.
"Everybody wants to go out on top, but unfortunately there are a bunch of teams that have to walk out of here losers," Brown said. "Second place really isn't a loser, but yet we are the first losers."
Finishing runner-up was tough on junior Aaron Mills, but the knows the team gave the effort to win.
"It is disappointing," Mills said. "But second place is all right with me, because we left it all out on the track."
Brown said the defeat gives the Bulldogs motivation for next year.
"It was disappointing, because coming in we knew we had a great shot to win," Brown said. "I think you have to take it for what it is and take it as a challenge for the guys next year."
As the meet progressed, the Bulldogs could never catch up with Abilene.
"They always had the lead and we could never quite get on top of them," Spielman said. "After they won the 800, we were down 12 points. Then Aaron Mills ran an unbelievable 200 and got second. Then all of a sudden we had an outside shot, but we needed help."
The 1,600 relay ran 3:25.79, less than one second behind Abilene (3:25.05). The relay team consisted of Brown, Hannon, senior Jeremy Wright and senior Spencer Wilson.
"Our mile relay ran their best time of the year at the end of the two days," Spielman said. "That showed they had taken care of themselves with the heat and wind."
The Bulldogs scored in every running event, but the 110-meter hurdles and the 800-meter run. The highest scoring event for the Bulldogs was off the track.
Mills and 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.
"It was amazing and I don't think I will ever be able to forget this day," Mills said.
After the long jump, Mills continued to score for BHS. He placed third in the 100-meter dash (10.81) and second in the 200-meter dash (22.14).
Mills' points in the 200 were important for the Bulldogs, because it was the second-to-last event.
"Coach told me I had to get at least fourth place," Mills said. "I told him I was going to do better than fourth place. I knew I had to help out the team.
"I knew I had to do everything I could to help out these seniors," Mills said. "I knew it was the last time I was ever going to get to run with them. I laid everything out as hard as I possibly could."
BHS also scored big in the 300-meter hurdles. Hannon won the race by running 39.4 seconds. Fellow senior Matt James placed fifth with a time of 40.53.
"Coming into it, I was shaking and nervous as I always am," Hannon said. "Once the gun goes off, my mind is set and I have to go. It was really great to stand on top of that podium."
The Bulldogs also scored in the 3,200-meter relay that finished second. BHS ran 8:17, less than one second behind Scott City, who ran 8:16.54.
Senior Grant Catloth ran his leg of the relay with only one shoe, as his right shoe came off when he was stepped on early in the race. Catloth's split was right around his average, while most others were slower because of the wind.
"It was amazing," Spielman said. "Angie (Spielman, his wife) and I were talking about it and he is kind of like the athlete of the meet as he was able to run 780 meters without a shoe on. I watched the whole race and never knew it."
Other team members included Wilson and juniors Caj Kueffer and Chris Elniff.
The 400-meter relay managed a fifth-place finish Saturday. Team members were Brown, Hannon, Wright and Mills. The relay ran 44.36.
Senior Keith Cowart placed in both of his races. Cowart finished sixth in the 1,600-meter run (4:41.31) and fifth in the 3,200-meter run (10:14.53).
"I was pleased with the two mile, but that mile time kind of hurt me," Cowart said. "I slowed down the last lap and let Abilene get one more person in there. I didn't get my place I should have."
The other individual placer for BHS was Wright in the 400-meter dash. He finished sixth in a time of 51.14.
Spielman was proud of his team, especially considering how many times some of them ran.
"Some of those kids ran eight times," Spielman said. "We had some kids run four prelims on Friday and then turn around and run four finals on Saturday."
For the eight seniors, it was their final event of their high school career.
"It was a great finale," Cowart said. "We were all kind of emotional about this one. We wanted to win it so bad."
Spielman was happy the seniors were able to win a state trophy.
"There were a few seniors that had been out for cross country and had won some state titles," Spielman said. "For quite a few of those kids that was the first time they had won a state trophy. Having their picture on the state trophy in the school is going to be cool for them."
Brown said there was no place he would have rather been last weekend than in Wichita for his senior finale.
"It's always good to come out and compete against these great athletes," Brown said. "Class 4A is just terrific. I couldn't think of any other place I would rather be this weekend."
He will always remember this team and how much fun they had together.
"We are a big team with how many people we brought to state, but we are a close team," Brown said. "I am going to miss the team bonding that high school brings to sports."