Senior duo redeem ‘06 state performance
WICHITA -- Redemption helped fuel two Baldwin High School seniors to three state medals here Saturday.
Chris Elniff and Caj Kueffer each brought home hardware from the state track and field meet. They each placed in the 800-meter run, 1,600-meter relay and 3,200-meter relay.
"We went into this meet with the goal of placing in everything we ran in," Elniff said. "We were able to accomplish that goal. Two of the races were relays, so we owe a lot to the guys on the relays that helped us. It feels like a great accomplishment to get three state medals."
The seven points in the 800 contributed to Baldwin's team score of 17. That placed BHS 13th in the team standings.
"I thought that was a good showing for us," coach Mike Spielman said. "We didn't have a whole lot of events covered, but the ones we had, we did well in them. That showed in the team results."
Last year, both Bulldogs competed in the 800, but brought home no hardware to show for it. Elniff placed ninth and Kueffer finished 11th. This year was different as both medaled.
"It's awesome," Kueffer said of medaling in the 800. "Chris and I kind of stumbled in the open 800 last year and we've been feeling bad about it all year. We were able to finally come back and run great races."
Spielman said the two Bulldogs might have also had motivation from the 3,200 relay, because it didn't go quite as they had hoped.
"I know they wanted to come back and have a good showing at the end there," Spielman said. "They ran well in the 4x800, but I think they were hoping to place a little higher, so it was a chance for them to get some frustration out."
For the first 500 meters of the race, both BHS runners were in the pack of runners, but trailing almost everyone else. In the final 300, they passed almost everyone on their way to the finish.
Elniff finished fourth (1:59.84) and Kueffer was right behind him in fifth (2:00.08).
"The state open 800 was probably the most memorable race of my career," Elniff said. "We started out way in the back. We were about last and second to last with about 300 to go. We both just turned it on at the end and we were able to catch a lot of guys down the home straight. It was just great to run and place with my teammate."
Spielman was proud of both runners Saturday.
"Caj and Chris had tremendous days," Spielman said. "They both ran PRs in the 800. Those were big points for us. They looked like a million dollars and just ran their races."
The BHS pair also helped the two relays earn state medals. After a two-hour weather delay, the 3,200 relays were back on the track. Baldwin battled up at the front for the entire race, but finished third in a time of 8:17.52.
"It was great," Kueffer said. "The weather made it so everybody could run fast times. Even though there was a delay, when we were running, it was PR weather."
Junior Aaron Karlin and sophomore Connor Wright also ran in the relay. The relay team was happy to place third, but was shooting for a higher finish.
"We did OK," Elniff said. "Third at state is nothing to turn your nose up at, but we went in there with a little bit higher expectations. Caj Kueffer ran a huge race for us. El Dorado had some good legs in there and some of us didn't run like we are capable of."
The other relay was the final event Saturday. The 1,600 relay team capped off the state meet with a fifth-place finish as it ran 3:29.56.
"I thought both of our relays did a really good job," Spielman said. "They ran really steady and did what they needed to do to get right in there."
Elniff, Kueffer and Wright were joined by junior Kyle Smith on the relay.
"The relays were great fun," Wright said. "It was a good year and a great way to finish. I wish we could have placed higher, but I am still happy to take some medals. It was a good time at state."
Baldwin improved its time from the week before by two seconds, but Elniff said the team had set a goal to place higher.
"The 4x400 was a really tough race," Elniff said. "We had higher expectations on that one, too. We had some spots on handoffs. It was a tight race, so there was some clutter in the exchange zones. All things considered, we ran a good time and were able to place."
The other event Baldwin medaled in was the long jump. Senior Blake Wieden jumped 20 feet, 6 inches to place sixth. Wieden also competed in the triple jump. He finished 11th with a jump of 40-8 Â¼.
Baldwin also had two seniors compete in other field events. Brandon Reed threw the shot put and finished 13th with a mark of 42-3. Nick Jackson threw the javelin 155-5 to place 14th.
"Blake scored in the long jump, which was great," Spielman said. "That was a big help for us. The other two guys competed well in their events."
The 13th place as team was a drop off from the runner-up Baldwin took a year ago, but Spielman was still proud of his team for competing hard all weekend.
"I thought we had a great meet," Spielman said. "The kids did a great job of competing. We had some great performances out of them. It's neat to come down to a big stage like this and do that. We ended the season on a great note. A lot of them got state medals, so it's nice for them to bring home state hardware. I am so proud of them."
Saturday saw the end of several careers at BHS. Elniff hadn't thought about it until after his final race, but enjoyed his time as a Bulldog.
"Now that I'm finally done, it makes me reflect on it," Elniff said of his career at BHS. "Running at Baldwin was easily the greatest experience of my life so far. Coach Spielman makes it really fun every year. And yet, I am sad, because I am going to miss it."