Garcia sets aim for another BHS record
Four school records, two gold medals and one silver medal weren't enough for Heather Garcia last spring.
The Baldwin High School junior standout runner has her sights on one more record: the 400-meter dash.
Rachel Miles, 2004 BHS graduate, set the 400 record at the state meet her senior year. She was clocked at running 58.95 seconds in her final quarter-mile race.
"It would be nice," Garcia said of setting the record. "I am learning how to run the race since I have no idea how to run it. It will give me something to work on."
Garcia improved on her 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter run records last spring. She also won the Class 4A state races in the 1,600 and 3,200, while placing second in the 800 last May in Wichita.
Now she has her eyes set on a shorter race.
"I am really looking forward to running the 400," Garcia said. "I am going to train hard for that and improve my time in the 800. I may build up to try and run all four sometime during the year."
She also helped the 1,600-meter relay team finish fourth last year. Garcia anchored the relay that set the school record during its preliminary run.
Her split in that race was timed at 56 seconds. That was the average of three BHS coaches. Their times ranged from 55.9 to 56.1.
Realizing that speed has helped Garcia aim for one more BHS record and possibly another gold medal at the state meet.
"I have never run it before on my own," Garcia said of the 400. "It's fun and it's only one lap. It's not endurance and it's not pace. It's all or nothing. It's different and exciting."
To win the open 400 gold medal at state, Garcia would more than likely have to run in four individual events during that weekend. She is a favorite to defend her 1,600 and 3,200 titles and a contender for the 800 title also.
The thought of running all four races at state doesn't worry Garcia as much as it does to qualify at the regional meet.
"It has been and, hopefully, I will get that chance in time," Garcia said. "It will be hard to build up to that point. State won't be as hard, because there will be a lot of time (in between races). It will be hard to qualify."
Garcia has nearly two months before she attempts the quadruple at the regional meet. Her coach knows she will have a successful season, but he isn't sure she will have a chance at another record at the first meet.
"We are going to look at her in the quarter, but maybe not Friday," coach Ted Zuzzio said. "She may be in the mile relay, not sure yet."
The Bulldogs open their season with the Baldwin Invitational Friday. The meet will begin at 3:30 p.m. with the field events. The preliminary running events will start at 4:30 p.m. and the finals will begin at 6 p.m. The two steeplechase races will begin at 4 p.m.
"We are anxious to actually get a chance to compete," Zuzzio said. "No one likes to practice, practice and practice. They would rather fire the gun and run."
Senior Amanda Vander Tuig said the Bulldogs are ready to begin the season Friday because they are anxious to see their training pay off.
"We are excited to get going and see where we are at," Vander Tuig said. "I am very excited for the meet. It's nice to be at home on our home turf again. The facility is really nice and we will be familiar with it since we have been practicing here."
Friday's meet will be the first time the Bulldogs have competed at Baker University's Liston Stadium since 2005. Last season the complex was under construction as the track, football field and parking lots were under major renovations.
The construction forced the Bulldogs to practice and host their home meet at nearby Wellsville.
The BHS competitors are glad to return home this year.
"No BIT at Wellsville this year," Vander Tuig said. "It should be exciting to be at home this year. It's nice to be back to the usual familiarity of it all."
Garcia is excited about running on the new track surface in front of the home crowd.
"I think we are ready," Garcia said. "It's time to start running and racing. I think it will be fun because it's a home meet on a brand-new track."
Zuzzio hopes the home meet will help take care of some nerves that might plague his team.
"It's always great to start your season at home," Zuzzio said. "That way the kids are more relaxed. We will have our home crowd with our faculty and student body, which is nice."
The Bulldogs will be looking toward senior Kelsey Verhaeghe, Garcia and Vander Tuig for leadership and points during the meets.
Verhaeghe competes in the 1,600, 3,200 and the 3,200-meter relay. Vander Tuig will compete in a variety of events this year, ranging from high jump to the 800 to the 3,200 relay.
"I am transitioning into a little more speed work this year," Vander Tuig said. "Hopefully, that will help with my turn over in the shorter to mid-distance races this season. It's been different but it's like being a freshman all over again and trying new stuff out."
Zuzzio is ready to see his girls compete at the meet.
"We are just ready to start," Zuzzio said. "You have to start somewhere and then you keep getting better every week. We are at the beginning of the season."