WAMEGO Baldwin High cross country coach Mike Spielman can't explain the secret to how his boys' team captured its six straight state title Saturday at Wamego Country Club.
"I think it's kind of partly that tradition," Spielman said. "And you know, no one wants to be on the team that stops the streak."
The Bulldogs say the reasoning behind their dominance is simple -- Spielman.
"I think it all starts up top with coach," said Phil Wagner, the lone senior on this year's squad. "We're lucky to have him, I'm really surprised he hasn't gone to a Division One college.
"He's such a great coach."
Spielman can sidestep the issue all he wants, but there has to be something behind his coaching methods.
Not only did the Bulldog boys win their sixth straight state title Saturday, but they did it behind a best-ever finish -- scoring 52 points and placing another school-best four state medalists.
Baldwin's girls completed the sweep with their second straight state title.
"It's coach," insisted senior Erica Ogle, who was Baldwin's top finisher in fifth place with a time of 12:08.38. "A lot of teams show up to state and think they really have to do something good that day. We do all the work before, so we don't have to do anything special."
It's not as if Baldwin has been bashful in turning out top runners. Just two years ago, four Bulldog track standouts signed with Division One schools -- including Missouri's Matt Noonan, who won three individual titles at Baldwin.
"What we were able to do this year is just move the whole pack up time-wise," said Spielman, whose boys squad had seven runners take the top 54 spots.
Brian Gerstner led the Bulldogs with a fifth-place finish in a time of 16:32.11, while Keith Cowart came in two spots lower in seventh at 16:37.18. Zac Towns took 12th in 16:51.89, while Wagner finished 15th in 16:53.51.
Spielman said the girls' title was special this season since they often were overlooked.
"The girls have always kind of been in the boys' shadow," Spielman said. "Last year they got their first one, but now they have a little contest between the two as to who can score the fewest points."
Eudora coach Paul Boone said Speilman-led squads were an example for his team.
"They work really hard, and they're going to get the benefits from that," he said. "I'm really happy for Mike and them, because I think they kind of get overlooked. But they're the class of the field and definitely who we're shooting for."
While Wagner won't have another season to help gain another state crown, he warned every other Class 4A squad to start working now if it wants to unseat the Bulldogs.
"I think most of the guys are going to start running again early next week," Wagner said, laughing.
- Eudora's Boone might have been in awe of Baldwin's team victory, but his senior, Tighe VanAnne, had the best finish of any area individual -- fourth in the 4A boys 5,000-meter run.
"I'm really happy for him," Boone said of VanAnne, who not only had a personal-best time of 16:31.68, but set the EHS school-record for fastest time on Wamego's course. "He's really been turning it on lately. He made himself a better runner this year."
- The Cardinal girls took eighth as a team with a 183 points, while De Soto and Tonganoxie's boy's finished 10th and 12th. Wildcat Casey Johnson led DeSoto with a sixth-place finish in 16:34.24. Wellsville's girls took 10th in Class 3A, while McLouth's boys finished fifth in 2-1A.