BHS girls’ track state title earns top sports story of 2010
JaBryanna Wellington’s final seconds as a Baldwin High School track athlete will be long remembered.
Those final moments were spent running stride for stride with Colby’s Emilea Finley as they sprinted down the home stretch of Cessna Stadium’s track. With one final lean, Wellington edged Finley by 0.03 seconds and won the Class 4A girls 1,600-meter relay and the 4A state championship for the Bulldogs.
“Jab was a team-first person,” BHS girls’ coach Zuzzio said. “She wanted to win it for her teammates and the school. That’s her make up. She gave it everything she had, which was all we needed.”
There were several state championships for the Bulldogs during 2010, but only one was worthy of the earning the spot as the Baldwin City Signal’s top sports story of the year.
The honor was bestowed upon the first-ever state championship for the BHS girls’ track and field team. The Bulldogs didn’t enter the meet as favorites, but incredible performances made the state title a reality on that weekend in late May.
“To win it on the last race by .03 was that much more exciting,” said Zuzzio, who won his first track title in his 34th year with the Bulldogs. “To win it in that fashion was incredible. We also set three school records out there, which were exciting, too. To have our kids reach the highest level at the last meet of the year was awesome. We had everybody compete at their best that weekend. It was a grand weekend for the kids who got the chance to compete at the meet.”
How incredible were the performances at the state meet by the BHS girls’ team members? Simply put, the Bulldogs medaled and scored in eight of their 10 events during the weekend.
It started with Katie Kehl, who was competing at her first state meet. She began the weekend with shot put. She broke her own school record on her first throw in the finals, which bumped her to second place with two throws remaining. In the end, she finished third, behind two seniors, who would have placed first and fifth in all classes.
“When you have freshmen competing, you hope they come up big, but you have to remember they are just freshmen,” Zuzzio said. “A lot of things can happen to anyone, so you never know what can happen at any meet. Katie competed at a high level at her first-ever state meet.”
The second day of competition started with Kehl and Allison Howard in the discus. Kehl finished behind Ottawa’s Kearsten Peoples, who holds the state record in shot put and discus, for the second-straight event. Howard jumped from seventh to fourth with her final two throws. It was the third-straight year she medaled at the state meet.
With the field events done, Baldwin headed to the track for its final six events. The 3,200-meter relay was first on the track in the morning. The Bulldogs trailed early in the race, but Carol Whaley took the lead on the third leg, and the Bulldogs never looked back.
Kaitlyn Barnes anchored the relay, which set a new school record with a time of 9:39.14. Connor Twombly and Elizabeth Sigvaldson ran the first two legs of the relay for BHS.
“We didn’t see that one coming,” Zuzzio said of the school record in the 3,200. “I was feeling the mile relay. The two-mile relay, from Twombly at the start of the gun to Barnes giving everything she had at the end, was incredible. Garcia was on the old record, so I didn’t think that would be touched for a while. They knocked of 16 seconds or more from their best time that year in that final race. It was phenomenal.”
On Saturday afternoon, the Bulldogs earned more team points in two sprint races. The BHS 400-meter relay team finished fifth after qualifying sixth. The team members were Myranda Behrens, Sammi Meisenheimer, Ramie Burkhart and Wellington.
The next event was the 400-meter dash and Wellington was back on the track. She ran the third-fastest time in the prelims and she improved her time in the finals but finished fifth. She still scored three team points for Baldwin.
“Every point mattered,” Zuzzio said. “We needed all of the points we earned.”
The 300-meter hurdles was next on the track and, again, Baldwin had runners qualified. Burkhart and Behrens were seeded seventh and eighth, but six runners had prelim times between 47.06 and 47.3.
Burkhart jumped to third place with a strong finish in the finals race. Behrens moved up one spot to earn a team point in seventh place.
Barnes hopped on the track for her third race of the weekend. She battled a strong field in the 800-meter run and finished sixth, despite hopes of a higher place.
“She didn’t have her fastest time there,” Zuzzio said. “She runs one speed and that is all out. The open 800 is no longer a distance race. It’s a sprint now. She still ran a good time, but it wasn’t her best race. Then she came back and ran a great leg in the mile relay.”
Heading into the final race, Baldwin sat in third place as a team. BHS had 43 points as it trailed Sumner Academy (51) and Piper (44), but the Bulldogs had a 1,600 relay team that ran the fastest time in prelims. A first-place finish in the relay would lock up a state championship, a runner-up finish would tie the Bulldogs with Sumner for the team title and a third-or-worse finish would put the Bulldogs out of title contention.
“We didn’t want that tie,” Zuzzio said. “The lead changed a couple of times, but we got the lead at the very end. The Colby girl didn’t give up either. It gave me chills.”
Sigvaldson, Twombly and Barnes ran the first three legs of the relay. Wellington received the baton as she was tied with Finley for first place. Wellington sprinted ahead and led much of the lap, but Finley caught even down the home stretch. The rest, they say is…history.