Championships, records highlight year in Baldwin
Another year has passed in the world of Baldwin City athletics.
There were many highs and lows during 2008, including state championships and heart-breaking losses. Baldwin High School and Baker University provided local fans plenty to cheer about all year long.
The Signal has compiled its top 10 sports stories of the year. Here are a few that didn’t make that list but were memorable.
First, the new year rang in with the BHS boys’ basketball team winning back-to-back Baldwin Invitational Tournament titles. Eric Toot led the Bulldogs to the championships in his first two seasons as the boys’ coach.
A few months later, BHS senior Callie Craig pitched a perfect game in the first round of the Bulldogs’ Class 4A regional. Craig struck out 10 of 15 batters as BHS beat Saint James Academy 10-0 in five innings.
During that season, the Baker University track teams both finished third at the Heart of America Athletic Conference meet. It was quite an accomplishment in Zach Kindler’s first year as Baker’s coach.
In the summer, Eric Brown, 2002 BHS graduate, participated in his second U.S. Olympic Trials in the javelin. Baldwin City’s summer exercise program, Bulldog Days, had a record-breaking year in its fourth year of existence.
This year has also seen the retirement of two long-time Baldwin City icons. Ginny Honomichl retired from BHS after teaching and coaching for more than three decades. At the end of the summer, Dan Harris, Baker University athletic director, announced his retirement at the end of the school year.
Now it’s time for the top 10 stories. Here they are, starting with No. 10.
10. BHS first-team all-state selections
A pair of Baldwin High athletes were rewarded for excellent seasons by being chosen to the all-state first team in their respective sports.
In the spring, Alex Zordel received the honor in softball. It was the junior’s third time on the all-state first team. This fall she signed a letter of intent to play softball at Washburn University in Topeka. Zordel will finish her career at BHS this spring.
A few weeks ago, BHS senior Sam Beecher was unanimously chosen as a first-team running back in 4A. He rushed for 1,807 yards and passed for 970 as he led BHS to an 8-3 season. Beecher became the fourth player under coach Mike Berg to earn such an honor.
9. BJHS track and field phenoms
The spring of 2008 was a banner year for the Baldwin Junior High School track program. The Bulldogs won three of four team titles at the Frontier League meet in May.
Brian Wright and Kaitlyn Barnes each swept their three events. Also winning league titles were Monica Howard, Chloe Hay, Austin Kraus, Caleb Gaylord and Shawn Berndt. The Bulldogs set numerous school and league records during the season.
8. 13th consecutive BHS state trophy
Although hopes were higher, the Baldwin High School boys’ cross country team faced tough competition at the Class 4A state meet in October. BHS still ran well enough to earn a third-place trophy.
The Bulldogs were led by sophomore Tony Weiss, who finished runner-up, and senior Connor Wright, who placed seventh.
The last time the Bulldogs didn’t win a trophy at the state meet was 1995. Since then, the Bulldogs have earned two third-place, three second-place and eight consecutive championship trophies.
7. Bulldogs finish unbeaten again
Baldwin Junior High School’s seventh grade class finished its perfect football season with an 18-8 victory over Wheatridge Middle School. Cornell Brown and Chad Berg scored touchdowns in the final victory.
The Bulldogs finished the season 7-0. It was their third straight undefeated season. The previous two seasons were played in youth football and the Bulldogs won the titles both years.
6. Soccer squad makes Wildcat history
Baker University men’s soccer team won its first national tournament game. The Wildcats defeated Park University 1-0 in the opening round of National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championship tournament.
Baker junior Matt Germain scored the winning goal in the first minute of overtime. The game was played at historic Liston Stadium. The Wildcats lost their next game in California to finish the season 14-7-2.
5. Relay gold ends BHS state meet
It was a near perfect ending to the Baldwin High School boys’ track season. The Bulldogs’ only gold medal of the day came in the 1,600-meter relay, which was the last event of the two-day weekend.
Baldwin ran the fastest time in the Class 4A preliminaries by running 3:27.62. On the following day, the Bulldogs’ gold-medal time was 3:25.52. The four Bulldogs on the team were Kyle Smith, Carson Barnes, Ryan Kennedy and Dustin Schiller.
Frontier League schools Louisburg and Paola finished second and third in the race.
4. Healthy diet helps BHS girls to title
After losing star Heather Garcia from the 2007 state championship team, no one was sure of how the Baldwin High School girls’ cross country team would rebound. The loss might have affected the Bulldogs early in the season, but not when it counted the most.
The Bulldogs emphatically won their second straight Class 4A state championship in October. They scored 46 team points, which was 50 more than second-place De Soto. It was the Bulldogs’ fifth title in seven years.
Four BHS girls medaled at the meet. They were senior Corinna Papps (3rd), junior Connor Twombly (4th), senior Calleigh Durr (10th) and freshman Elizabeth Sigvaldson (19th).
3. Baker football returns to playoffs
The legendary Charlie Richard was coach of the Baker University football team when it last played in the national playoffs. That was 15 years ago. Fifth-year head coach Mike Grossner ended that streak this fall when his Wildcats earned an at-large berth to the playoffs.
Baker was blown out in the playoff game at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. The Wildcats finished the season 8-4, but were a few points away from winning the conference title. A blown fourth-quarter lead against Lindenwood and an overtime loss at MidAmerica Nazarene kept the Wildcats from the conference crown.
Baker was projected to finish in the middle of the 11-team conference. The Wildcats do return their all-conference quarterback, running back and kicker, among others, next fall.
2. Garcia nearly sweeps final state meet
Baldwin High School’s most distinguished runner was seconds away from finishing her career with an all gold medal Class 4A state meet. For the third consecutive year, Heather Garcia won the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at the state meet.
She also anchored the 3,200-meter relay team to the gold medal. She received the baton in second place and nearly 60 meters behind the leader. Garcia passed the leader on the final curve as she cruised to the victory. It was her favorite race of the day, she said after the meet.
Garcia’s only blemish on the day came in the race that eluded her all four years. Once again she finished runner-up in the 800-meter run. Garcia was bumped as she took the lead on the last lap, but she nearly recovered to win the gold.
During her four years at Baldwin High School, she won three gold medals in the 1,600-and 3,200 runs, three silver medals in the 800 and a silver in the 1,600 and 3,200. Add to that two cross country championships and a runner-up and you’ve got an incredible career that is continuing at Boston College.
1. McCarthy, Packers give back to Baker
In July, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy donated $50,000 a year for five years to the Baker University football program. The Packers matched his donation, which will bring the total amount to $500,000.
A portion of it will fund an endowment for a football scholarship in McCarthy's name. The scholarship specifically will go to an incoming junior college athlete. Additionally, portions of the funds will go to current scholarship funding, as well as enhancements to the football program.
McCarthy attended Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College before coming to Baker. While at Scottsdale, McCarthy was teammates with Mike Grossner, Baker University’s fifth-year head coach. The two former teammates keep in touch and Grossner has visited McCarthy in Green Bay on several occasions. Their ties and McCarthy’s ties to his alma mater were the primary reasons for the large donation.