BHS girls win fifth-straight Class 4A title
WAMEGO ― Baldwin High School's girls cross country dynasty continued here Saturday at the Class 4A state meet.
While it was the fewest number of state medalists for the Bulldogs in recent years, they still easily won the state championship. BHS scored 65 team points, while second-place Maize South had 91 points.
“I was really excited about how well they ran,” coach Mike Spielman said. “The kids have done a great job of keeping the tradition going. They don't want to see the streak end. They did a great job of taking care of each other and making sure the team title is the most important thing.”
This year's championship marked the fifth-straight for the Bulldogs, who have now won eight of the last 10 4A state titles. They now hold the 4A record for consecutive state cross country titles.
Although the three seniors will be leaving, they hope the younger girls have their sights set on eight-straight titles. The BHS boys' program won eight-in-a-row from 1998 to 2005.
“We want to catch the boys,” senior Carol Whaley said. “If the freshman class wins every year, they will catch the boys.”
Whaley, along with seniors Abi Hartzell and Elizabeth Sigvaldson were on the BHS team all four years and they can call themselves four-time state champions. Winning state has become such a tradition that the girls weren't worried about losing after the 4-kilometer race Saturday morning.
“I was never worried about getting second,” Whaley said. “I don't know why, but I wasn't worried. I just kept thinking that we're not going to get schooled today. It's not happening on my time.”
In fact, the Bulldogs were more emotional before the race than after. Tears were shed during their pre-race huddle and they struggled to hide their emotions, even during the race.
“It's bittersweet,” Hartzell said. “I never thought it would be this sad when it's over, but I'm really sad. It's safe to say, we all cried.”
Sigvaldson said she tried to put her emotions in check once the race started.
“Of course, we were really nervous,” Sigvaldson said. “You can't cry too much, because you can't breath, but after the race they were tears of happiness.”
Once the gun went off and the runners started, Baldwin tried to avoid finding itself too far behind.
“It was a scary start,” Whaley said. “I could tell that Spielman was intense, because everybody else went out so fast. I don't think we went out slow, but it felt like it.”
The crowded first mile made it hard for Baldwin to move toward the front.
“I tried to be in the top third, but it was hard,” Sigvaldson said. “We were in the middle, so they all seemed to come from either side of us.”
BHS struggled to find its way to the front during the first mile, but the Bulldogs were patient. During the final 1.5 miles, the Baldwin runners used the hills to pass many runners. The Bulldogs stayed together and moved up through the pack.
“The nice thing about the girls is they are always worried about the team winning,” Spielman said. “They stay together and they help each other during the race. They could go out way too hard and hurt their team, but they don't do that. They are able to finish strong and help the team, because a lot of things happen during the last half mile.”
Sophomore Katie Jones led the Bulldogs with an 11th-place finish. She finished 25th as a freshman after falling early in the race. She finished the course in a time of 16:03.91.
“It was great for her to get a state medal,” Spielman said. “She would have got one last year. She came back to get 25th after falling. It's a big honor to get 11th. She ran hard and she deserved it.”
Whaley was right behind Jones, running 16:04.73 and finishing 12th. She earned her second state medal after finishing 17th as a sophomore.
“It helped that she could see Katie the whole time,” Spielman said. “She ran with Katie and they worked together well. She's been our second runner pretty much all year. She has a lot of talent and it showed this year.”
Hartzell and Sigvaldson were the next two Bulldogs. They nearly capped off their senior seasons with medals. They placed 22nd and 25th in the race. The top 20 earn all-state honors with medals.
“This last race was really sweet for both of them,” Spielman said. “Elizabeth had to overcome a lot all year, but she kept moving up all year. She was able to put it all together for her last race. For Abi, it's the first time she's run at state. She was an alternate two years and she qualified as a freshman. The were close to medaling, which is really good for both girls.”
Junior Sienna Durr (29), sophomore Libby Verhaeghe (30) and junior Kaitlyn Barnes (45) rounded out the Baldwin runners.
“Sienna and Libby had good races,” Spielman said. “They kept moving up all race and to be in the top 30 is really good. Kaitlyn did well for the first half of the race. What I like about her is she had a bad stretch of the race, but she was flying by people the last 800. She understands what's at stake, but she's tough.”
Finishing her career with a state championship was great for Hartzell.
“It's exciting to finish on top,” Hartzell said. “We are so close that I know we will stay friends for the rest of our lives.”