Wildcats finish HAAC with flair
Sweeping the final event only seemed fitting for the Baker University track and field teams Saturday.
Before the Wildcats could finish second and third at the Heart of America Athletic Conference championship meet on Saturday in Fayette, Mo., they had to finish with flair. Baker swept the men’s and women’s 1,600-meter relays at the conference meet, ending the weekend with two more victories.
“To me, that’s the most exciting race on the track,” Baker coach Zach Kindler said. “I hate to pick a favorite, but at that point in the meet, it’s the most exciting race. All of the teams are surrounding the track and cheering their teammates on all race long.”
For the Baker women’s team, the final event had no effect on the team standings. However, the Wildcats had pride and the defending event title on the line.
“We had second place wrapped up before the 4x400 started,” Kindler said. “So even if we dropped the baton, we were still placing second. But, we were defending champs on the ladies side in the 4x400 and we had some pretty big walls up with Lindenwood and Mid-America posting faster times earlier in the season.”
Despite having the third fastest entry time, Baker went out and defended its title. The BU women ran a 4:01.02 to hold off Lindenwood (4:01.64) and Mid-America Nazarene (4:03.72) to win the relay. The relay members were Katey Wegemer, Kelsey Heckathorne, Regan Boyer and Ashlee Miller.
Heckathorne, a 2005 Baldwin High School graduate, was one of the members on the 1,600 relay Saturday and last year. She finished her career at Baker with a gold medal relay, which is a moment she’ll always remember.
“Defending our 4x400 title was huge,” Heckathorne said. “It was so exciting. Coming into the meet, both Lindenwood and MNU had turned in faster times than we had. To be honest, if they had run as fast as we know they can, I don't know if we'd have been able to do it.
“But, part of competition is being able to put the best team you have together to compete and we fought through aches and pains to put our best team on the track,” she said. “They didn't. Sweeping the men's and women's 4x4 was probably the most exciting 10 minutes of the meet and also a great way to end the meet. Winning close races like that is such a high.”
The Wildcat men also narrowly defeated several teams as they won the relay. They ran 3:18.28, which beat Lindenwood and Culver-Stockton by less than two seconds. Running the relay was Kome Okiomah, JL Anderson, Nick Pannell and Tanner Gleason.
That victory boosted Baker men’s team to 119.5 points, which placed them third in the standings. The BU men finished third at the outdoor HAAC championships last year.
The Baker women just helped secure their runner-up finish in the team standings. They scored 150 points to improve from third a year ago.
“Placing second was our goal coming in to conference,” Heckathorne said. “We knew that we'd have to work hard and everyone would have to do their best to achieve it, so I think it was very well deserved. We all did what we had to do to make it happen and it was definitely earned, definitely not given to us.”
Kindler said he wasn’t surprised at how well his teams finished, despite placing third and sixth at the indoor HAAC championships.
“Obviously going in, I knew the ladies could finish second, but the guys could be anywhere from second to fifth,” Kindler said. “I didn’t really know how some of our guys would step up. We had a terrific day one and set ourselves up perfectly, but we just had a couple tumbles that knocked us out of second.”
Winners for the Baker women were Chelsey Ornburn in the pole vault (10 feet, 11 inches), Aubree Gustin in the javelin (122-1), Boyer in the heptathlon (3,7212 points) and Stephanie Colwell in the 3,000-meter race walk (16:38.62).
“Regan broke the HAAC record in the heptathlon,” Kindler said. “Obviously, we have an All-American heptathlete in Ashlee Miller, but according to the HAAC, Regan Boyer is the best ever in the conference history.”
Anderson and Brian Korn each won two events for the Baker men. Anderson swept the 110-meter hurdles (14.90) and 400-meter hurdles (54.89). Korn won the shot put (53-5 ¾) and hammer throw (179-2). Okiomah captured the 200 (21.59) title. Aaron Hannon was Baker’s other winner with a 13-11 ¼ mark in the pole vault.
“Both of those guys are new to the program and they were both double event winners,” Kindler said of Anderson and Korn.. “Brian hit national-qualifying marks in both and broke the HAAC record in both events. JL was also on the men’s 4x400, so he was part of three conference titles.”
Baker has qualified 16 athletes for the national meet later this month. The Wildcats will host a multi-event meet today and Friday and some Wildcats will compete at a last-chance qualifying meet in Emporia on Saturday.
“We have one of the largest groups in Baker history qualified right now,” Kindler said. “We have eight men and eight women. It’s very exciting to have that many going to nationals.”
Baker’s other placers:
200 — 2. Heckathorne, 26.27. 6. Ashlee Miller, 27.81
400 — 3. Miller, 58.85. 4. Kelsey Heckathorne, 58.89
800 — 6. Catherine Tyler, 2:28.29
5000 — 5. Mary Loveland, 20:07.88
10,000 — 8. Stephanie Cowell, 46:04.87
400 — 8. Lexie Hamilton, 1:13.59
3000 steeplechase — 4. Mary Loveland, 12:59.54. 8. Molly Schmeidler, 13:59.08
4x100 relay – 2. Laneisha Douglas, Ornburn, Heckathorne, Miller), 48.91.
4x800 relay — 5. Mary Loveland, Heckathorne, Stephanie Rusnak, Catherine Tyler), 10:31.63
High jump — 3. Regan Boyer, 5-3. 4. Miller, 5-1. 6. Rae Stewart, 5-1
PV — 6. Erin Rogers, 8-5.5. 7. Hela Kawas, 8-5.5
Long jump — 3. Miller, 17-4 ¾
Triple jump — 5. Lexie Hamilton, 34-5.5. 6. Stewart, 34-2.
Shot put — 3. Carrie Lister, 39-6.5
Discus — 6. Jackie Koch, 122-8. 8. Carrie Lister, 115-10
Javelin — 5. Ashlee Miller, 108-0. 7. Carrie Lister, 104-9
Heptathlon — 5. Katey Wegemer, 3181 points
400 — 7. Tanner Gleason, 50.23
5000 — 7. Ezra Bett, 16:00.72
10000 — 3. Ezra Bett, 32:58.75
110 hurdles —7. Kolter Smith, 16.12.
400 hurdles —5. Kolter Smith, 56.03
4x100 relay — 2. Gary VanHorn, Aaron Hannon, Trevor Gleason, Kome Okiomah, 42.22
4x800 relay — 6. Justin Hill, Nick Pannell, Arnold Sirorei, Brian Hageman, 8:10.72
High jump — 8. Aaron Hannon, 5-9 ¼
Pole vault — 3. Leo Smith, 12-11.5
Long jump — 5. Aaron Hannon, 21-11
Discus — 5. Brian Korn, 139-9
Javelin — 5. Andy Roberts, 153-6
Decathlon — 5. Leo Smith, 4695 points