Pair of school records fall at state track meet
WICHITA — Less than one second separated Connor Wright from two gold medals here Saturday.
Instead of Class 4A state championships, the Baldwin High School senior left the state track and field meet with two school records and a smile.
“This is probably the best meet I’ve ever had,” Wright said. “Those two school records were nice. It was a great way to end my career.”
Wright left Wichita with sole possession of the school record in the 800-meter run. He now shares the 1,600-meter relay record with three teammates.
His performance, along with that of many other Bulldogs, helped the BHS boys’ team tie for ninth place as a team. BHS scored 22 team points to tie Atchison.
“We had a really good meet,” coach Mike Spielman said. “We had lots of kids that medaled and placed. We didn’t win any championships and we kind of nickeled and dimed all of the points to get up to ninth as a team. It was nice to spread the wealth around in a lot of different events. We had a great weekend.”
In the 800, Wright nearly snuck up on the inside of the track to win the race. He came from fifth place with 100 meters left to finish runner-up by 0.22 of a second. Pratt’s Paul Harris won the race in a time of 1:56.23, as Wright took second, running 1:56.45.
The previous school record was set in 2002 by Eric Black, a 2002 BHS graduate. Black ran 1:56.86 that season and went on to win the 4A state title.
“I almost won that one, too,” Wright said. “If I could have had five more meters. I think I ran a pretty smart race and maybe the smartest race I’ve run. It’s nice to get the school record from old coach Eric Black. It was really cool that he was able to be here today.”
His coach was happy for Wright, who missed most of the 2008 season because of an injury.
“Connor had been shooting for that school record all along,” Spielman said. “It was great that he was able to get that record. That just carried right over to the 4x400. He ran a great first leg and got the rest of the guys pumped up.”
Wright came back Saturday evening to compete in his final high school race. It was also the last for senior Ryan Kennedy. The BHS 1,600 relay had the second fastest time coming into finals.
Baldwin opened the race with a strong leg from Wright. Freshman Shawn Berndt opened the Bulldogs’ lead to nearly 30 meters. Sophomore Josh Hoffman kept the Bulldogs in front.
Kennedy took the baton with Tonganoxie and Atchison’s anchor legs closing on him. All three ran side-by-side down the final 50 meters.
“We had the lead at the end and Ryan was running for all he was worth,” Spielman said. “He ran a great split as our anchor. He gave it all he had, but there were two really great runners chasing him. That’s the bad thing about being out front, because they can chase you.”
The Chieftains edged out the other two runners with a time of 3:23.50. Atchison ran 3:23.94 to finish second. Baldwin placed third in a time of 3:24.16.
“I heard them coming behind me on the last 100,” Kennedy said. “I knew I had to give it my all. I pushed as hard as I could. I had nothing left. Taking third in 4A is big. There are some great teams in 4A. I’m really happy that we could finish third.”
Kennedy, who ran the fastest split on the relay, was the only Bulldog who ran on the relay this year who also competed on the state title team in 2008. The Bulldogs won the race a year ago in a time of 3:25.52.
The Bulldogs’ time Saturday broke the BHS record that was set in 1983. The old record of 3:24.4 was a one-time 4A state meet record.
“We ran 3:25 in the 4x400 last year and won it, but took third running 3:24 this year,” Spielman said. “It was just a loaded class this year. Our school record was the 4A state meet record at one time. To break that record was really something impressive.”
Although they narrowly placed third in the relay, all four runners were thrilled to set the school record.
“That was our goal,” Wright said. “We would have loved to win the race, but there was a lot of really good competition out there. I was really excited to get that record. I’m happy.”
Hoffman, who came out for the BHS track team for the first time this spring, will be smiling every time he looks at the BHS record board in the gymnasium.
“This is really exciting,” Hoffman said. “It’s my first time at state and we got third place and a school record. It’s really nice to bring home a state medal. It will also be nice to walk into the gym every day and see our school record on the wall.”
For Kennedy, he wanted to repeat as champions, but he’ll take the record instead.
“It feels great to finish my year with a school record,” Kennedy said. “Sure, I would have liked to take first, but I’ll take third with a school record. That’s a great way to finish.”
Wright was also happy to end his career with the 1,600 relay record.
“Track has been one of the best high school experiences for me,” Wright said. “It was really nice to run that last race for coach (Richard) Ebel. I hope he gets feeling better, because that was for him.”