Garcia runs through mental barrier
Heather Garcia may have fallen short of her goal Saturday, but she broke through a mental barrier in the process.
Garcia, a senior at Baldwin High School, had a goal of winning the Rim Rock Classic. Instead she finished third in a time of 14:56.80, only 10 seconds behind the winner, Blue Valley Northwest's Laura Roxberg.
"I am proud of myself, because I passed out a couple of times last year," Garcia said. "I am not going to do that this year. I finished the race and I'm pretty sure a lot of girls would do anything to get third, so I'll take it."
Last year, Garcia came close to wining the prestigious race as she finished runner-up. She also passed out at the finish line a year ago.
On Saturday, she hung with the top pack through the first mile, then fell about 50 meters behind and maintained that distance until the end. She battled through a stomach cramp for most of the race.
However, Garcia caught one competitor down the stretch. Knowing she could battle through a tough race and finish hard helped Garcia get over not winning.
"I am glad I at least did that," Garcia said of finishing well. "I would have liked to have had a better outcome, but I am happy that I didn't let myself down and stop. It was really hard mentally to do that."
BHS coach Mike Spielman said Garcia showed some toughness late in the race Saturday.
"She had a little bit of that stomach cramp, which got her in the middle of the race," Spielman said. "She was able to fight through it at the end and make a big push. She would have loved to have caught those two girls and won it, but I think she was happy to finish strong and feel good at the end of the race."
Garcia's third-place finish helped the BHS varsity girls place seventh as a team out of 20 teams. BHS scored 234 points to hold off nine other Kansas schools. Jefferson City (Mo.) won the meet with 94 points.
"We were really excited about taking seventh," Spielman said. "It really helps when you have a low score at the front at a meet of that size. The rest of them really packed it up and ran really well.
"The order keeps changing and the pack did separate a little bit this time," Spielman said. "Some of them felt better than others and they went ahead a little bit. That is good, because it pulls the others along. All of them had big finishes, which is good to see."
Juniors Calleigh Durr and Corinna Papps finished second and third for BHS. Durr placed 47th (16:40) and Papps placed 48th (16:41.60). The next Bulldogs to cross the line were sophomore Connor Twombly (56th, 16:48.80), sophomore Julie Hill (80th, 17:10.80), freshman Heather Karlin (88th, 17:20) and senior Colby Heckathorne (117th, 18:08.70).
"We were so excited," Garcia said. "It's amazing. We all ran so well today. We were determined to run well."
The BHS boys also had success Saturday, despite junior Connor Wright not finishing the race, because of his calf cramping. The Bulldogs placed 15th out of 26 teams with 379 points. St. Louis University High School (Mo.) won the meet with 77 points.
"If Conner would have finished, our fourth and fifth runners would have been the strongest we've been there in a long time," Spielman said.
Freshman Tony Weiss led the Bulldogs as he placed 24th (17:18), which was good enough for a medal. Senior Aaron Karlin (39th, 17:38.50), freshman Carson Barnes (71st, 18:09.50), junior Brad Canterbury (95th, 18:30.70), senior Alex Coffey (154th, 19:31.70) and junior Blake Shields (167th, 20:05.30) rounded out the Bulldogs.
"A freshman medaling at Rim Rock is really good," Spielman said of Weiss. "We had a good team placing even with Conner getting tripped and going down. I was really happy with the boys' race."
The junior varsity team also competed Saturday. Freshman Sarah Whaley medaled in the JV race, as she placed 22nd.
"I was really happy with everybody, considering it's a big meet and we were out there for a while, especially the varsity teams," Spielman said. "I thought overall it was the best we have done there in a long time."
The Bulldogs will compete in the Sabetha Invitational at 4 p.m. today. Spielman grew up in Sabetha and has returned home for the meet every year since he began coaching at BHS in 1992.
"It's nice to go back home for me," Spielman said. "After the meet, we go out to the farm and have a big taco feed. It's good for them to see some different competition."