Gold quest ends at two
WICHITA -- Baldwin High School sophomore Heather Garcia nearly won a team trophy by herself at the state track meet here Saturday.
Garcia scored 28 points individually and anchored the 1,600-relay, which was the only other event the Bulldogs scored points in. Garcia brought home two gold medals and one silver medal in her distance races.
"Everything we scored in, she was a part of," senior Kelsey Heckathorne said of Garcia. "She won the mile and two mile and got second in the 800. Those were the only open events we had points in. Then she anchored the 4x400, so props to her, because she is my hero."
With two events left, the Bulldogs sat tied for third place with Wamego, but Fort Scott and Parsons passed BHS after the 200-meter dash.
Baldwin needed a third-place or better finish in the 1,600 relay to place third as a team and collect a trophy.
Baldwin battled in the pack of runners for second place for three legs. Then Garcia received the baton in sixth place. She grabbed second place quickly and held it around the last turn, but the pack of runners behind her caught up to her in the final 50 meters. The relay finished fourth in a time of 4:07.30, only 0.19 out of second place.
"It was disappointing, but we couldn't expect any more out of Heather," Heckathorne said. "She ran her heart out. "We ran one of our best times of the year. We hung in there and fought for it."
Garcia said she might have run too fast too early in the race.
"It was all right, but I think I took out too fast," Garcia said of her relay leg. "The wind killed me. Besides that, we ran good."
Other relay members were Heckathorne, senior Amy Craig and sophomore Courtney Harris. The relay set the school record again this year in the prelims Friday, by running 4:05.02.
Heckathorne said not placing in the top three as a team was disappointing, but she was happy with her time on the relay.
"It was, but that the same time I am happy," Heckathorne said. "Depending on whose splits you look at, I ran under 60 or 61. I am going with the split that said I ran a 59.9. I went out running well and can finish with something I am proud of."
The Bulldogs tied for fourth place with Parsons with 32 points, as Fort Scott took third with 33. Concordia won the title with 80 points while Eudora scored 57 for second.
"I was pleased with how we competed," coach Ted Zuzzio said. "We were 0.09 seconds from a trophy. We ran our hearts out and that's all you can ask."
Garcia's weekend began by anchoring the 1,600 relay Friday night in the preliminaries. She ran a split of 56 seconds to help the Bulldogs advance to Saturday's finals.
"Heather Garcia was magnificent," Zuzzio said. "Her splits in the mile relay were golden."
On Saturday morning, she started her day with the first of four races. She ran the 3,200-meter run and won it in a time of 11:33.65. Garcia didn't run for time, because of the windy conditions and the number of races she was running that day.
"It was all strategy," Garcia said. "Having girls in front of me was driving me crazy. I wanted to go around them, but coach (Mike Spielman) told me not to. I just tucked in with the pack. He told me to work the last 800 and that's what I did."
After a few hours of rest, Garcia came back on the track for her second race of the day. She once again owned the last 800 meters of the race, as she won the 1,600-meter run (5:21.93).
Her third race of the day was the 800-meter run. Garcia was stuck in the pack for the first lap, but made her way out for the final 200 meters. She finished second in the race, running 2:19.98, which was less than one second from first place.
"My position wasn't the best in the first lap," Garcia said. "I just did what coach told me to do."
The second place wasn't disappointing to Garcia, because she broke her school record with her time.
"It really wasn't disappointing," Garcia said. "I just wanted to do better than last year. It was good. I PR'd and took second place, so I am happy with that."
Zuzzio was thrilled to see Garcia stand on the medal stand after all of her races.
"It's always gratifying to have Baldwin tracksters win medals," Zuzzio said. "It's even more special to have her on the top of the stand."
Garcia was happy with her state track meet.
"It was a good day," Garcia said. "It was fun and I PR'd one time, so it was good. Place wise, it was better than last year and I had a lot more events. But last year I was a freshman and it was fun."
She put pressure on herself at the meet. The four events were tough at regionals, but worse at state for her.
"This was worse, because it's state," Garcia said. "I put lots of pressure on myself which makes me really nervous. I have high expectations for myself. I try and take it race by race and that helps a lot."
Garcia also receives a lot of help from fellow sophomore Madison Shoemaker at every meet. Shoemaker helps Garcia off the track each race and makes sure she gets plenty of water.
"I don't know what I would do without her," Garcia said. "I know I did good when I collapse at the end. I know I have given it all I have. She helps a lot, because I don't want a stranger helping me."
Junior Kim Lester also competed at the meet in the pole vault. Lester vaulted 9-0 to place eighth.
The 3,200-meter relay team ran 10:22.20 and finished 10th. The team consisted of Craig, junior Kelsey Verhaeghe, junior Amanda Vander Tuig and Shoemaker.
Verhaeghe also ran in the 800-meter dash. She placed ninth and ran 2:23.74.
Zuzzio was very pleased with the support at the meet.
"We had lots of parents and family out there," Zuzzio said. "There was also a large student following that traveled to the meet. We had many great fans down there."
Saturday was the final meet for Craig and Heckathorne.
"It was a nice finish to my high school athletic career," Heckathorne said. "It was my only event and my only chance to medal. I went all out and I know the team did too."