Seniors surprise, improve to qualify
CARBONDALE -- Several Baldwin High School senior boys are peaking at the right time of the season.
Five BHS seniors qualified for the state meet here at the Class 4A regional track meet Friday. It helped the Bulldogs finish fourth as a team with 55 points.
"I thought it was by far our best meet," coach Mike Spielman said. "The whole goal is to have your best meets at the end of the year, so you have a good feeling as you are finishing things up."
Augusta won the team title with 79 points. Abilene and Rose Hill placed second and third with 67 and 56 points, respectively.
"We were one point out of third and that's really good," Spielman said. "We had a loaded regional and everybody around knew it was loaded. To be right in there like that is a really good thing."
BHS qualified a total of eight for the state meet this weekend in Wichita.
"To get all of those kids qualified was really great," Spielman said. "We had a lot on the bubble and they all stepped up and did what they had to do. We had lots of personal records and you couldn't ask for better than that."
The senior Bulldogs led the way at the regional meet. Three Bulldogs set new personal records to qualify in four field events. Senior Nick Jackson set the largest PR of the day in the javelin.
Jackson set a new PR by nearly 23 feet as he threw 173 feet, 2 inches. That earned him a third-place finish.
"That was so awesome," Jackson said. "I don't even know where that came from. I've been getting better in practice, but until today I just hadn't come up with the throw to show it yet."
He was positive his first throw was good enough for state, so Jackson let loose on his next two to improve his mark.
"I threw 168 on my first throw and that kind of set the stage," Jackson said. "It kind of took the pressure off myself, because I knew that throw might make state. Once I threw that, I went out and threw as hard as I could."
The other two seniors in the field events were Brandon Reed and Blake Wieden. Reed improved his best mark in the shot put to throw 47-1 and place third.
Wieden set a new mark in the long jump with a leap of 21-1. That was good enough for third place. He also qualified in the triple jump. He placed fourth and jumped 41-8.
"We had three field event guys that really stepped up," Spielman said. "They all got PRs and qualified. That was really neat."
Baldwin also qualified two relays and two seniors in the 800-meter run. The Bulldogs won the 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter relays Friday.
BHS edged out Chapman in the 1,600 relay to finish the night with one final victory. Baldwin ran a 3:31.5 to narrowly beat Chapman at 3:31.70.
The Bulldogs' first three legs -- ran by senior Caj Kueffer, sophomore Connor Wright and junior Kyle Smith -- battled back and forth with Chapman runners.
Senior Chris Elniff took the baton narrowly in first, but was passed within the first 100 meters. Elniff followed his opponent around the track and took the lead on the home stretch. He edged out the Chapman runner to win the final race.
"The 4x400 was really exciting," Spielman said. "Chris just had a great anchor leg. All three guys before that did their job of keeping us right in the race. Chris was able to out sprint a guy who had won the open quarter. That's a neat deal for him to run that."
Smith was excited to win the race because it was his only event the day.
"I was fresh because I hadn't run anything else," Smith said. "I just took off and it was great. Connor passed that one guy and then Chris finished it off. It was great."
The other victory by the Bulldogs wasn't nearly as close. BHS won the 3,200 relay in a time of 8:23.9 to beat second place by more than 11 seconds.
"We knew they had a good chance along with the relays," Spielman said. "So we took care of business. We didn't have anything bad go wrong, so it was a really positive meet for us."
Running on the relay was Kueffer, Wright, junior Aaron Karlin and Elniff.
"It's great to be going to state for the first time," Wright said "It's really great for the seniors to win both races."
Elniff and Kueffer also qualified in the 800 as they placed second and fourth, respectively. Elniff ran a 2:01.2 while Kueffer crossed the line in a time of 2:03.4.
"We ran pretty well today," Kueffer said. "It was exciting. We had a great 800, but Chris and I stuck together and pushed each other. In the end, we were fortunate enough to get second and fourth."
The Bulldogs will head to Wichita Friday morning for the state meet. They will return Saturday night, hopefully after a performance like Friday's.
"We are going to try and bring home as many medals as we can," Spielman said. "We hope to get kids from the prelims to the finals and take some small steps that will hopefully lead to some big things."