BHS aims to reclaim state titles
Redemption might not be the right word, but the Baldwin High School cross country teams have goals of taking back their Class 4A state titles.
Last fall, both BHS teams placed at the state meet. The boys' team had previously won eight straight championships, while the girls won the title three of the four seasons prior to last year.
Any of the Bulldogs will tell you what their goal for this season is. It's obvious when talking to them.
"That is always the goal," senior Aaron Karlin said. "We are two votes behind El Dorado in the preseason poll, so it gives us a goal for the year."
The preseason polls came out this week and the BHS girls are picked first while the boys are second behind defending state champion El Dorado.
Last year, the BHS girls were beaten by De Soto at state. Individual winner and senior Heather Garcia said the Bulldogs are aiming to have a shot at the state title this fall.
"That's the goal," Garcia said. "We lost a couple of good runners, but hopefully we can find a couple of girls to fill their place so it won't hurt us."
The Bulldogs will be tested early in the season. They will compete against De Soto today at the Anderson County Invitational. The De Soto boys finished third at state. Then the Bulldogs will run against El Dorado Sept. 8 at the Wamego Invitational.
Coach Mike Spielman understands the teams' goals, but he knows the early meets will let them know where they stand against their competition.
"On their goals for the year, some of them wrote 'to take state back,''' Spielman said. "They want to get back on top again. They realize what they've got to do. Thursday will be a great opportunity to know where we stack up against some teams. We just need to see what everybody else has and make some comparisons."
Both teams have solid numbers out this fall. The boys have 18 runners, while the girls have 17. It enables BHS to fill junior varsity teams along with the seven varsity runners.
The Bulldogs have several freshmen out this year, along with a few first-year runners. The two freshmen that look to make the biggest impact are Carson Barnes and Tony Weiss. Both will be running varsity for the boys this fall.
"They are both going to be in the top five," Spielman said. "They will be helping us a bunch. They will be giving us some depth on the boys' side."
The boys return three other runners from last year's state runner-up team. Juniors Connor Wright and Brad Canterbury mixed with Karlin should round out the boys' top five runners.
"We've got a good core back and when we add the two freshman boys in the mix, we will be pretty solid," Spielman said. "We have a couple of good seniors that will lead us this year in Aaron Karlin and Alex Coffey."
Spielman said he is looking for two solid runners to fill the varsity roster this year, which could be competitive among several Bulldogs.
"We've got some kids that have found those spots," Spielman said. "We want to have some competition for those spots, too. The guys that are up there keep getting better and better."
While the boys' team only returns three varsity runners from a year ago, the girls' squad only lost one runner from the 2006 state meet. One Bulldog that looks to fill that role is sophomore Connor Twombly. Her track season has the Bulldogs excited for this fall, when she is added to the mix of other young Bulldogs.
"She is a good addition for us," Spielman said of Twombly. "She is making us more solid in that middle group. We will have five girls that could be second or sixth runners. We just need to get some of them moved up and we'll be in good shape."
The returning Bulldogs are sophomore Julie Hill, junior Calleigh Durr, junior Corinna Papps, senior Madison Shoemaker and Garcia. Freshman Heather Karlin looks to make an impact on the team, also.
Garcia will once again be the lead runner for BHS. Spielman is hoping the other six varsity runners will pack up and run close behind her.
"We've got a really nice pack behind Heather," Spielman said. "Heather will be up there, so we've just got to make sure that pack isn't too far behind. I think we will be pretty solid."
Garcia is looking forward to her senior campaign and has a goal of winning back-to-back individual state titles. To reach the goal, she has stepped up her training a notch.
"I am going to try and do that again," Garcia said of winning state. "I am going to try and improve my time. I've been doing some distance runs and workouts with the guys. I'm excited for my senior season."
The Bulldogs will begin their season today in Garnett. The meet begins at 4 p.m. with the freshman boys' race. The next four races will begin 30 minutes after the first with the varsity boys starting at 6 p.m.
"We are ready and excited," Garcia said. "I think we all ready to start racing."