State title monopoly
BHS cross country teams sweep Class 4A state championships
It’s been five years since the Baldwin High School cross country teams reigned supreme … until Saturday.
Mike Spielman won his 16th and 17th Class 4A cross country state championships as the Bulldogs’ coach this weekend at Wamego. On Sunday, his trees and lawn were covered in success, in the form of streamers of white toilet paper.
“It's a neat feeling for both of the teams,” Spielman said. “It's such a hard thing to do for both teams to win in the same year. We just had a great day. There aren’t very many schools in the country that win both boys and girls championships. It’s a rarity, and it’s a neat deal for the kids because everybody goes home happy.”
It’s the first time the Bulldogs swept the Class 4A state championships since 2005 — the years the boys won the last of eight-straight titles — and the third time in school history the teams have accomplished the double feat, having also brought home both state championship trophies in 2002 and 2003.
The Baldwin girls’ team was just getting started with those three state tittles. The Bulldogs finished runner-up in 2006 to De Soto, but have reigned supreme the last four years.
“We’re hoping to break their streak of eight,” junior Elizabeth Sigvaldson said. “Maybe eventually, we will get there.”
Spielman explained how success fueled further success.
“When the boys were winning it year after year, the girls were always looking at that as a goal,” he said. “For a couple of years in there, we did both. Then all of a sudden, it’s the girls who are winning, and the boys are looking at getting back on top. They want to enjoy the success that the girls were having each year. Now they can both celebrate together.”
Recipe for success
Excellent coaching is essential for a program to become a dynasty. Spielman has made a name for himself during his 19 years as the Bulldogs coach. However, other factors contribute to the boys’ tradition and the girls’ program establishing itself as the new 4A powerhouse.
Team chemistry is something some squads work on all season, but it seems to come natural for the BHS cross country teams. The team members bond together during the school year and into the summer. The incoming freshmen or newcomers are invited to run or hang out during the summer months to introduce them to the team.
“Never have I been on a team with such a great attitude an atmosphere,” said senior and first-year runner Brandon Baltzell. “Everyone on the team encourages everyone else, and parents were eager to host team dinners and parties. The Baldwin cross country program is a great tradition. The team is so much fun to be a part of, everyone is included and has a good time.”
The second factor to winning year after year is sacrifice. Of course, the runners sacrifice their bodies each day in practice and every meet. Some BHS runners have fainted after races or suffered injuries, something that happens to all teams, but they have adopted a new sacrifice the past few years.
During the 2007 season, the BHS girls’ team gave up sweets and sugars for the final weeks of the season. The sugar-free diet resulted in healthier runners and a state championship.
“The no-sugar really helps,” Sigvaldson said. “It helps every year. We avoid sugar and pop.”
In 2008, the Bulldogs extended the no-sugar policy to the entire season. They’ve maintained it the last three seasons.
“I told the girls at the beginning of the year, ‘no sweets or pop,’” senior Heather Karlin said. “I had to really enforce it the last two weeks of the season. We also made sure not to wear flip flops late in the year.”
The BHS boys’ team joined in this year, hoping it would keep them healthier all season.
“I think some are more dedicated than others,” Spielman said. “It’s the same way on the boys’ side. They do a good job of trying to do the right things.”
Baldwin’s final piece of the puzzle is tradition. It’s not only about the tradition of winning and bringing home trophies, but it’s also the smaller things that make the state titles more memorable.
Those traditions include pre-meet dinners, creating T-shirts for the regional meet, dressing up before leaving for state and the post-state meal at the Kreem Kup in Wamego.
“I would have to say the day we leave for state, the seniors always make state-bound shirts and this year’s shirts were really cool,” Karlin said. “Then, we also dress up and take pictures. It’s a lot of fun. The traditions are what make this sport what it is here at Baldwin.”
Some of the traditions are a little more painful but still enjoyable, such as sharing in drinking soft drinks for the first time in months after the state meet.
“I really like drinking our pop for the first time together,” Sigvaldson said. “It burns really bad. It doesn’t taste very good, but it’s a tradition so we do it anyway.”
For now, Spielman wouldn’t have it any other way. He enjoys the traditions that keep his team happy and winning.
“Each year, it seems we add more to our traditions,” Spielman said. “Somebody is going to have to write a book to keep track of all of them. We somehow seem to find ways to add more each year.”
One tradition that continues each year is winning, and Karlin established a new standard for BHS girls.
“Like Heather talked about, she’s the first girl to win four,” Spielman said. “Now the next group has a goal of winning four state titles. Once it gets started, it keeps going and each class wants to keep that tradition alive.”