Wildcats claim first round of running battles
Baldwin High School cross country teams will find out right where they sit with the best competition in the state Saturday morning.
The Wamego Invitational will draw many of the top teams in Class 4A. De Soto looks to be the top competition on the girls' side, while El Dorado, Mulvane and De Soto are expected to be the boys' top teams.
"We've got a big meet at Wamego," coach Mike Spielman said. "It's early in the season, but you get to see all of the top teams in the state. We will find out where we sit after this weekend. From there, we can go on and figure out who the best teams are in the state and what we need to do to be there at the end of the year."
Saturday's meet will be the second for the Bulldogs. Last Thursday, the BHS teams opened their season at the Anderson County Invitational.
Both BHS varsity teams finished runner-up to De Soto. The junior varsity girls placed second, while the JV boys took third as a team.
"I was really happy," Spielman said. " I thought the kids did a nice job of getting in there and seeing where we are at. They all had good races and finished strong, so I was really happy."
The BHS varsity girls scored 38 points, just five behind the defending state champion Wildcats. Senior Heather Garcia led the way for BHS as she defeated second place by 1:30 on the 4-kilometer course.
"She didn't have any challengers this week," Spielman said. "Some races are going to be like this, but some races she will have some challengers. She is going to have to figure out how to push herself, whether someone else is there or not."
Baldwin's fifth runner, sophomore Julie Hill, beat the Wildcat's fifth runner across the line. However, the Wildcats' top three runners beat the Bulldogs' second runner, junior Corinna Papps.
In between Papps and Hill were junior Calleigh Durr and sophomore Connor Twombly. Only seven seconds separated Papps and Hill, but Durr said the Bulldogs let De Soto get too far ahead too early.
"We were worried when their top six runners were ahead of our pack, but we eventually caught up," Durr said. "We want to pack up at the next race better and run with the De Soto pack earlier in the race."
Freshman Heather Karlin and senior Madison Shoemaker rounded out the Bulldogs' varsity team. Spielman was proud of all seven girls last week and he believes they will improve as the season progresses.
"We had some kids that are still kind of young, so it was a chance to get some of them some races," Spielman said. "I think we will just get better and better as the year goes. It is nice to be really close to De Soto this early in the year."
The BHS boys were also watching for De Soto at last week's meet. Last year De Soto beat Baldwin, which shocked the cross country world, ending the Bulldogs' (?)eight-year stranglehold on the state championship trophy. This year, the Bulldogs knew it would be a close race.
De Soto won the meet with 27 points, while Baldwin finished runner-up with 42 points. Baldwin's first four runners finished in the top 11 at the meet, although experience is at a minimum.
"With two freshmen and some kids that haven't hardly run any varsity, we are really inexperienced," Spielman said. "I thought they did a great job of staying packed up and making some moves. We are a lot further ahead than we were at this time last year, so I am really happy."
Junior Connor Wright ran a little bit of varsity last year, while freshmen Tony Weiss and Carson Barnes ran their first-ever cross country race last week. Senior Aaron Karlin is the only varsity member with more than one year of varsity experience for the Bulldogs.
Despite the lack of varsity running, the Bulldogs packed up and ran together. Weiss broke and finished second in the race.
"I was really happy to finish second," Weiss said. "I was surprised I did that well. I think I maybe could have caught the winner, but I wanted to get a feel for things and not kill myself."
Spielman said Weiss will only get better as he learns how to race and understands the sport a little bit better.
"He is going to be good," Spielman said. "He had a nice race that day and he felt good. It was just a great thing for him to be able to start out that way."
Baldwin's other varsity runners were junior Brad Canterbury, senior Alex Coffey and junior Blake Shields.
Baldwin's junior varsity girls' team placed second with 36 points. De Soto won both JV races also, as both teams scored 26 points. The BHS JV boys' team finished third with 68 points. Iola was second with 45.
"We've just got a lot of inexperience, especially on the JV boys' team," Spielman said. "We have a lot of kids trying to figure out cross country right now. I was happy with the way everybody ran."
The Bulldogs next compete Saturday at the Wamego Invitational. The varsity girls run at 9 a.m. followed by the varsity boys at 9:30 a.m. The JV girls compete at 10:30 a.m. while the JV boys run at 11 a.m.
"It should be a fun meet," Weiss said. "I'm kind of nervous, because there will be a lot more people at this meet. I know what a race feels like now, which is nice before a big meet like this."
Baldwin High School results
1. Heather Garcia, 15:19.34
7. Corinna Papps, 17:20.96
9. Calleigh Durr, 17:22.69
10. Connor Twombly, 17:25.57
11. Julie Hill, 17:27.29
15. Heather Karlin, 17:49.54
24. Madison Shoemaker, 18:46.78
2. Tony Weiss, 17:52.08
4. Aaron Karlin, 17:59.30
6. Connor Wright, 18:15.70
11. Carson Barnes, 18:46.31
20. Brad Canterbury, 19:24.70
30. Alex Coffey, 20:24.89
39. Blake Shields, 21:09.64
Junior Varsity girls
3. Colby Heckathorne, 19:05.39
5. Misty Emery, 19:33.73
6. Sarah Whaley, 19:37.79
15. Hannah Harris, 20:12.30
17. Kelly Baker, 20:15.36
19. MacKenzie Flory, 20:22.64
20. Hannah Sigvaldson, 20:25.10
28. Courtney Harris, 21:46.11
29. Ariel Sanders, 22:04.90
Junior Varsity boys
8. Braden Phillips, 21:05.62
17. Patrick Pinault, 21:39.43
19. Andy Woods, 21:48.26
21. Cody Kruger, 22:17.97
22. Jeremy Wilkinson, 22:18.85
55. Ethan Horne, 25:26.87
61. Lex Jones, 26:02.85
66. Tom Taylor, 26:55.13
68. Derek Wallace, 27:28.35
78. Colby Willard, 35:27.35