Archive for Thursday, June 1, 2006

Column: Bulldogs earn several medals at state

June 1, 2006

As I avoided getting too much of a sunburn Saturday in Wichita, I was busy making my way around Cessna Stadium to watch the Baldwin High School track teams earn many state medals.

As much fun as I was having watching my old high school have success, it all came to a sad halt at the end of the final event.

Both teams fell just short of their goals when the 1,600-meter relays finished. Though the weekend didn't finish quite as they hoped, neither team had anything to hang their heads about.

I drove down to Wichita early Saturday morning after attending a family wedding and reception late into Friday night in Kansas City.

I arrived at the track during the girls' 3,200-meter runs. Luckily, Class 4A was last to run this year. That gave me extra time to sleep in.

Even in the morning, it was hot and windy, neither of which are great for running fast.

The first race for BHS set the tone on the girls' side. Sophomore Heather Garcia toyed with her competitors for six laps, before she opened up a big lead and cruised into victory.

She is just fun to watch run, because she has the ability to leave the rest of runners behind in a hurry, while not looking like she is moving fast. But if she ever needed to out kick someone, I am pretty sure she could.

The only proof I need for that is her split from the 1,600 relay Friday night in prelims. She ran a 56 to anchor the relay. That is moving, especially for a distance runner who does not have the body of a sprinter.

After winning her 3,200, Garcia rested up for a few hours before returning to the track for the 1,600-meter run. In that race, she also sat in the pack until the final two laps.

She coasted into victory again, but not before the rest of the pack almost caught her from behind. So by early afternoon, Garcia was two-for-two with gold medals. Her challenges laid ahead though.

By this time, the boys' team had a few points itself with the 3,200-meter relay collecting a second-place finish. The amazing thing was the Bulldogs almost won the race even though senior Grant Catloth ran 780 meters of his 800 without one shoe on.

Another runner stepped on his heal, knocking his shoe off. He continued and ran his normal split in the windy conditions. I must say I never noticed his shoe off until someone told me after the race.

The boys had also scored in the long jump, 100-meter dash, 3,200 and 1,600. I had a great view of the long jump and 100 finish down on the corner of the track.

As the meet progressed on, I kept checking with coach Mike Spielman on the team scores and how accurate his predictions were. The boys were close to Abilene but needed to keep running well.

The big turning point for me was the 800-meter run. Jeb Flynn of Abilene won the race and neither Baldwin runner cracked the top seven. The Bulldogs scored no points while Abilene gained 10.

It was at this point I figured the Bulldogs' shot of a title was done, since there were only two events left and they trailed by 12 points.

I thought it would come down to the 1,600 relay, where Abilene had a faster time. Then junior Aaron Mills ran an incredible 200-meter dash, scoring eight for BHS.

This gave the Bulldogs one last race to win the gold. The needed to win the race and have Abilene place third to tie for the championship. So the Bulldogs needed some help from another team. That help never came.

Baldwin held the lead in the race until the final 50 meters, when Abilene passed the Bulldogs and won.

Abilene won the final race in a head-to-head competition with us, so they deserved to win the title. The Cowboys ran as expected or better in every event. They brought their A-game and took home the title.

That's not to say that BHS didn't run very well all weekend. It was just beat by a better team that day. If the meet was to run this weekend, the result might be different.

The boys took home the second-place trophy, but the girls still had a shot at winning a trophy. I should say Garcia had a chance at a trophy, because she scored most of the points.

Garcia scored eight more points by placing second in the 800. Pulling off the three golds would have been difficult, but two golds and a silver isn't too shabby, just ask 2002 BHS graduate Matt Noonan.

Garcia's 28 points gave BHS a chance for a trophy, if it placed third in the 1,600 relay. This was going to be tough, but with Garcia anchoring the relay, anything was possible.

The Bulldogs battled with the other teams for the first three legs, before unleashing Garcia. She was in sixth place when she received the baton, but 150 meters into her leg, she was in second.

Garcia looked strong with 100 meters to go, but began to tie up with 50 meters left. Then the pack of girls behind her caught up and two girls edged her out, leaving Baldwin with a fourth-place finish in the race and as a team.

After the race Garcia felt bad for not being able to finish the race in top three places. She had nothing to feel bad about as she had already ran 15 laps that weekend, 14 of which were that day.

In hindsight, maybe she should have sat right behind the pack for the first 200 and then make her move down the homestretch. But she wanted to go out and win the race.

It's hard to get mad at someone who goes for the gold but uses all of their energy up. She had a tremendous day and used every drop of gas in her tank.

In my opinion she was living by my famous slogan, "Go big or go home." Garcia was going big, but just fell 10 meters short of her goal.

Next year she should return to the state meet with a big target on her back. She has the ability to win any race 400 meters or above, which is pretty incredible. I will miss watching her run for a few months, but I hope to see her run well in cross country.

Its hard not to cheer for someone called "Stick."

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