Column: Track teams can return Bulldogs to glory days
It all comes down to this: one final meet in Wichita.
The culmination of the Baldwin High School sports year wraps up with one weekend of track and field. It's the last big hoorah for a year that has been less than average for the Bulldogs. But, it has a chance to end on a positive note.
It's hard to believe, but the sports season began nine months ago with early morning and evening fall practices. I still remember preparing for another exciting autumn of football and cross country. Oh my gosh ... how time has flown by.
Now, here we are about to end the 2006-07 year with a weekend of exciting races and events at Cessna Stadium. Unfortunately, this has not been a usual year of sports' success, especially in the postseason.
Only the BHS boys' cross country team and wrestling squad captured a regional title this year. The cross country boys' squad went on to finish second at state, along with the girls' team.
I don't honestly believe finishing as a state runner-up is a failure or anything negative. It's a great accomplishment for the Bulldogs, but not when compared to recent years.
The BHS boys did win eight straight state titles and the girls did win three of the previous four titles. Has that impaired our vision of success?
Of course it has.
I know for a fact that both BHS teams were initially disappointed to finish second. Given a little while to let the reality of it all set in, the Bulldogs were pleased to be the second-best team in the state that day.
The wrestling team did have another successful regional with its second straight team victory. The Bulldogs even qualified eight for state.
Not taking anything away from anyone's performances, but the Bulldogs fell short of their goal to improve on their best team finish at state. Instead, they tied their best with a seventh-place finish.
There were several solid individual performances, including two state runner-ups and one third-place finish. Senior Josh Wood was inspiring as he qualified for state after his mother, Sherrie Wood, succumbed to cancer three months prior. The wrestlers had a great state meet, but it wasn't an incredible performance that shocked the world.
In the fall, the football and volleyball teams saw no postseason action this year. The soccer team won a single regional game, but was beaten by lower seeded Piper 5-3 at home.
The girls' tennis team had a brief moment of success when senior Mary Clippinger qualified for state. But, as luck would have it, her first match came against the eventual champion. Clippinger did score one of the two games that the champion allowed during the state tournament.
So, the fall seasons came to a screeching halt at the end of October, which gave Baldwin fans plenty of time to prepare for the winter.
The basketball teams battled through successful regular seasons, led by their seniors. Unfortunately, the girls' season ended with a tough loss in the regional semifinal. It was one of their worst games all season, and it just had to happen in the postseason.
The boys' season was even more heartbreaking. The Bulldogs nearly pulled off the upset over No. 1 seed Piper. They battled back late in the game to have a chance to win, but were the victim of a clock error and a couple no-calls by the officials.
Then the spring season rolled around, which looked promising. The softball squad started off hot with its pitching duo and solid hitting. Then the Bulldogs hit the wall ... and hit it hard.
In its season finale, Baldwin was skunked by Ottawa in a doubleheader. I was hoping the Bulldogs could put those losses behind them, but I guess not.
BHS lost 1-0 in the regional opener. After beating Wellsville 12-8 May 8, Baldwin failed to score a run in its final three contests. That's not the way anyone close to the team foresaw the season ending.
Then the baseball team suffered through a difficult season, but never gave up. The Bulldogs did win one postseason game before running into the machine known as Bishop Ward baseball. BHS should be proud of its season and its final victory.
Lack of postseason success followed the BHS boys' tennis and golf teams. Senior Kirby Flory was the lone state qualifier in golf, but his state tournament was disappointing for him. The boys' tennis team didn't qualify anyone for state out of its tough regional.
Maybe we've been spoiled as BHS fans with recent successes by our teams at regional and state competitions. I know many schools would be thrilled to have the type of success that Baldwin has in athletics. But once the bar has been set so high, it's hard to realize success can fall just below that bar.
It looks like junior Heather Garcia will have to save the BHS sports year. She won the cross country state title and she has a chance to win a couple gold medals this weekend.
She isn't the only one with a chance to bring home some hardware but she has the best odds with her four individual races. It should be an exciting weekend. Hopefully, the year will be capped off with a few successes.
Good luck Bulldogs!