Baldwin girls bring home title
The elation and awe were still present in coach Ted Zuzzio’s voice two days after his Baldwin High School girls track and field team claimed the 4A state track and field championship.
The Baldwin girls piled up the points Saturday to pull away from rival Paola to claim the school’s third state title in four years. Zuzzio said the team’s chances looked good going in the meet at Wichita and looked better after the first day of competition, in which senior Katie Kehl claimed the gold medal in the discus and the girls 4x400-meter relay team set a new state meet record in qualifying for the finals.
“It was a wow meet,” he said. “We looked good on paper, but the girls still had to go out and perform. It was a total team effort. We had kids placing first and placing eighth. All those points counted.”
The team’s scoring depth made the championship different than those the Bulldog girls won in 2010 and 2011 in that they had first place wrapped up before the final event of the day, Zuzzio said.
Not that it would have produced much drama had it came down to that final 4x400-meter relay. Baldwin girls have won the 4x400 four straight years and have clocked the fastest time in the state this year regardless of class. During Friday’s preliminaries, the Baldwin team of senior Elena Watson, junior Morgan Lober and seniors Kaitlyn Barnes and Glenn Kelley McCabe put a punctuation mark on Bulldogs’ dominance of the event with a state meet record-breaking time of 3:58.7 to qualify No. 1 for the Saturday’s finals. Fittingly, the team broke the record a Concordia team set in 2009, the last year a team other than Baldwin won the event.
The team couldn’t duplicate that time on Saturday, but that was understandable given the day its members put in. Lober and McCabe ran earlier in the 400 meters, with Lober taking first and McCabe placing third, and both ran legs in the seventh-place 4x100-meter team with Watson and freshman Kyna Smith. Lober was a member of the state second-place finishing 4x800-meter relay team with junior Hannah Hutton, freshman Fayth Peterson and Barnes. Barnes’ full Saturday also included fourth-place finishes in the 800 and 1,600 meters.
“I asked her before the 4x400 if she had any gas to run,” Zuzzio said. “She said ‘I’m fine. I’m fine.’ There was no way she was coming out of that race.”
Another images that sticks with Zuzzio was Lober coming back from 20 meters back in the last 40 meters to overtake Courtney Griffiths of Winfield to win the 400 meters. Lober’s victory in that event with a third-place finish by McCabe, who has been fighting a shin injury the past few weeks, wrapped up the team title for the Bulldogs.
A number of freshmen contributed to Saturday’s point onslaught, Zuzzio said. Kelsey Kehl finished sixth in the javelin, Addie Dick was eighth in the 1,600 meters and Smith and Peterson were members of relay teams.
Zuzzio said a trio of Bulldogs in the shot put set the table for subsequent Saturday success. Kehl won but Stein’s fourth-place finish and Jessie Katzer’s fifth-place finish ensured the Bulldogs would outscore Paola in the event despite Panther athletes finishing second and third.
“Katie Kehl had the best shot and discus throws in the state this year, and our mile (4x400) relay team was the best in the state,” Zuzzio said. “That excites me. When you’re the best high school athletes in the state of Kansas, that’s pretty special.”
Zuzzio said the team benefited from an excellent coaching staff, but in the end it was the work team members that made for the successful year.
“Our kids aren’t afraid to work,” he said. “They sacrificed for the team, and that’s what it is all about.”