Bulldogs stride into state
TONGANOXIE -- With a goal of a state championship in sight, the Baldwin High School boys' track team qualified 11 Bulldogs for state and won the Class 4A regional meet here Friday.
BHS will be sending someone in every track event, three in field events and all three relays to Wichita this weekend for the state meet.
"We were just trying to get as many qualified, so you give yourself a lot more options," coach Mike Spielman said. "Hopefully we can take advantage of them."
Senior Jeremy Wright says the Bulldogs have a chance of winning the Class 4A state title.
"We have a great shot at winning it," Wright said. "A lot of us have a great shot at winning state individually. We are all excited and ready to go."
The Bulldogs are hoping to be one of the top teams this weekend and Spielman thinks that could be possible.
"I think it's going to be between Abilene, Spring Hill, Thomas Moore Prep and us," Spielman said. "Those are the four teams that will be battling and it should be close."
Even though Spielman knows the meet will be close, he still has only one goal in mind.
"Our goal is to try and win it," Spielman said. "We are talking about the things we need to do to get that done. Friday will be a huge day. We've got a bunch of prelims and if we can get a bunch of people qualified that day, it will make a huge jump on Saturday for us."
One thing that may help the Bulldogs is its senior class. Seven of the 10 qualifiers are seniors and many of those seven competed at state a year ago.
"We've got a great senior class and great leadership," Wright said. "I think we have a chance of making it all the way."
Spielman hopes the seniors continue the leadership that they have shown all season.
"They are going to be able to lead us and make sure people are where they need to be," Spielman said.
To qualify for state, the Bulldogs had to place in the top four of an event at the regional meet Friday. Baldwin ran away with the meet by scoring 139 points, which was 49 more than second-place Spring Hill.
"It was a really nice victory," senior Aaron Hannon said. "We will take that first place into state, looking for a big finish."
Spielman wasn't surprised by the large victory, but instead by how fast the meet was ran.
"The main surprise that I had was that the meet was over really quick, but we still had some PRs and school records," Spielman said. "Considering how fast the meet was ran off and how warm it was, that was good for us."
Baldwin started the meet by qualifying three Bulldogs in the field events. Wright and junior Aaron Mills took first and second in the long jump, respectively. Wright jumped 21-8 Â½, while Mills leaped 21-0 Â¾.
Senior James Hightree placed third in the discus with a throw of 138-11.
Then came the track events, where the Bulldogs qualified someone in every event.
"The nice thing was we qualified someone in every track event," Spielman said. "That made it nice."
The 3,200-meter relay started the running events and set the tone for the rest of the night. Baldwin won easily, running 8:15.6, beating the second place team by nearly nine seconds. Relay members were Senior Spencer Wilson, junior Caj Kueffer, senior Grant Catloth and junior Chris Elniff.
"The relays are all tough and they have their chance to be first or second in the state," Spielman said. "That's good that they can go out and do their thing."
The 400-meter relay set a new school record, running 43.2, but lost to Spring Hill. Running on the relay were senior John Brown, Hannon, Mills and Wright.
"We were shooting for a great time and we got it," Wright said. "It will give us some momentum into state."
Senior Matt James and Hannon both qualified in the 110-meter and 300-meter hurdles. Hannon placed third (15.0) in the 110 hurdles and first (39.4) in the 300 hurdles. James finished fourth (15.3) in the 110 hurdles and second (40.3) in the 110 hurdles.
Hannon was happy to qualify in both hurdle races this year.
"That was really nice, because those are my bread and butter," Hannon said. "Hopefully, I can place in both of those."
Aaron Mills helped BHS in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. He won the 100 in a time of 10.6, setting a new school record. Then he placed second in the 200, running 22.6.
Senior Keith Cowart also qualified in two events for BHS. Cowart finished second in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs to Spring Hill's Miles Acinger.
"This is my fourth year going to state, so I would have been pretty upset if I didn't make it," Cowart said. "All of these guys gave us a run for our money and we all had a fun time out there."
Other individual qualifiers for BHS included Wright in the 400-meter dash and two others in the 800-meter run.
Wright placed third in the 400, running 51.1. Elniff and Kueffer took first and fourth in the 800, respectively. Wilson missed qualifying by placing fifth in the 800.
"Keith is coming back and running well," Spielman said. "We've got two guys in the 800. It was a good day for those guys."
The Bulldogs finished the meet off with a 1,600-meter relay victory. They ran 3:26.2, beating second place by three seconds. Team members included Brown, Wright, Wilson and Hannon.
"We were expecting to get a big win coming in," Hannon said. "It feels really nice for us to win by so much. We will take that into state and show some numbers."
Hannon was thrilled to qualify in four events this year for state.
"I think it's a pretty great achievement, since last year I only qualified in one," Hannon said. "This year we were looking to qualify as many as possible for state."
Spielman was pleased with the Bulldogs' performance Friday.
"We've just done a great job of getting better every week and just trying to improve," Spielman said. "Our times are getting faster and we are pretty excited."
The Bulldogs head to Wichita Thursday to compete in the state meet this weekend. The preliminaries and a few field events will be run Friday, with the finals on Saturday.
Spielman and the Bulldogs are all ready for the final meet of the season.
"It feels great," Wright said. "State is exciting and each year I look forward to getting there. I was fortunate enough to stay healthy and get back out there."
Cowart said the meet will be sad, because it will be his final state meet.
"It's going to be a sad one," Cowart said. "It's kind of weird seeing it all end. It's going to be fun and, hopefully, we can go out there, do our thing and have a chance at winning it."
A schedule for the meet can be found at www.kshsaa.org/TRACK/tfstate.html and results from the meet can be found at www.tickertiming.com. Also check the Signal's Web site for updates on the Bulldogs this weekend.
100 -- 1. Mills, 10.6
200 -- 2. Mills, 22.6
400 -- 3. Wright, 51.1; 5. Smith, 52.4
800 -- 1. Elniff, 2:00.2; 4. Kueffer, 2:01.8; 5. Wilson, 2:03.4
1,600 -- 2. Cowart, 4:34.3
3,200 -- 2. Cowart, 10:22.6
100 hurdles -- 3. Hannon, 15.00; 4. James, 15.3
300 hurdles -- 1. Hannon, 39.4; 2. James, 40.30
400 relay -- 2. Baldwin, 43.2
1,600 relay -- 1. Baldwin, 3:26.2
3,200 relay -- 1. Baldwin, 8:15.6
Discus -- 3. Hightree, 138-11
Long jump -- 1. Wright, 21-8 1/2; 2. Mills, 21 Â¾
Triple jump -- 6. Wieden, 39-8
Team scores -- 1. Baldwin, 139; 2. Spring Hill, 90; 3. Bonner Springs, 55