Braves demand respect at state
Wichita It's hard to imagine the Bonner Springs 400-meter relay team playing the "no respect" card entering Saturday's Class 5A state finals at the state track meet. After all, they did break the 5A state record during Friday's preliminary race.
But that's exactly what the Braves did. Friday night and all day Saturday. Sure, they smoked everybody in the prelims by winning in 41.86 seconds - 1.1 seconds ahead of the second-fastest qualifier and slightly better than the old 5A record time of 42.03 that Liberal ran in 1997.
You wouldn't have known it by being in the stadium, however. Typically, if a team breaks a meet record, is on pace to break a meet record or turns in one of the state's fastest times of the year, the accomplishment is proclaimed over the public address system to everybody in Wichita State University's Cessna Stadium.
BSHS coach Jim Mitchell didn't hear a word about his runners other than that they finished in first place.
"They disregarded it, didn't they?" Mitchell said later.
Although the slight likely was an honest oversight during the hustle and bustle of the meet, the Braves seized upon it. Mitchell reminded them of it. They talked about it amongst themselves. And why not? When you've already beaten the competition by such a wide margin, motivation has to come from somewhere.
Even Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, played this card from time to time. This wasn't a case of misguided bitterness. It was smart strategy.
"They shouted everybody else, and they didn't shout us out," Jeremy Walker said. "Our coach was heated, but it'll just make us run harder, make us prove the point and get the championship."
The Braves spent Friday night critiquing their preliminary performance. During the race where they'd notched a personal best by .9 seconds, they found a slew of flaws.
Starter Ian Briggs said he slipped a bit coming out of the blocks and could have run faster. Jeremy Walker and L.T. Lee said their handoffs could improve, and that would get the baton to anchor runner Jonathan Walker even quicker.
On Saturday it was showtime, plain and simple.
Decked out in their tight speed suits - they ditched the traditional shorts and jerseys weeks ago for the sleeker singlets - they let the Walker brothers' 1-2 finish in the 110 hurdles and Jeremy's victory in the 100 serve as warning shots about what was to come.
Then, at about 3:30 p.m., it was time for the main event.
The starting gun popped and Briggs fired out of the blocks. He leaned into the curve and hugged the line before handing the baton to Jeremy Walker. He scorched down the back straightaway, steadily opening up a lead before giving the baton to Lee. The tallest member of the relay team, Lee dug into the back curve with powerful strides and charged toward Jonathan Walker who, with baton in hand, darted toward the finish line.
Usually one to smile during the final few strides of a race, a serious scowl adorned Jonathan Walker's face as he drove through the finish line with a 10-meter victory.
"I was so serious, so confident," he said.
Upon seeing their time - 41.64 - the smile returned.
State champions. State record. Mission accomplished.
This time everybody knew about it. It was announced to the crowd as a new 5A state record, as well as the third-fastest time in Kansas history.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime team, and this was our last race, so we just had to go," Jeremy Walker said. "We had to prove a point to all these other teams and schools and people that said we couldn't do it."