Bailey closes out championship career
Former Clark student was dominant runner for Maranatha Eagles
From the day she arrived at Maranatha Academy, Ali Bailey has been one of the Eagles’ top distance runners.
The former Clark Middle School distance running standout from Bonner Springs departs the Shawnee school as one of — if not the most — decorated female athletes in school history. Her steady performance and leadership earned her the respect of teammates, opponents and coaches alike.
Bailey was a standout for the Eagles in cross country, basketball and track, but her greatest athletic successes came as a runner.
She was a four-time state qualifier in cross country and guided her team to runner-up finishes in 2006 and 2007 before the Eagles brought home the Class 2A team championship in 2008. Bailey notched individual top-10 finishes during each of those three trophy-producing seasons, placing 10th as a sophomore, fourth as a junior and sixth as a senior.
For cross country head coach Bianca Williams, Bailey’s clutch performance was indicative of what made the senior special.
“Ali Bailey was our captain,” said Williams recently, “and she was our ‘go-to’ person. Any time I said, ‘Ali, you need to go talk to this runner’, you could depend on her as a go-between. She had a lot of heart. She will definitely be missed.”
In his first year as the Maranatha girls basketball coach, Mark Schultze knew he was going to have to find a leader on the team. He hoped that leader would be receptive to his basketball philosophy and would ease the transition period between coaches by helping the other girls buy into the system.
Schultze didn’t have to wait long to find out who that leader would be.
“Ali was one of our co-captains,” Schultze said. “We got to count on her to be the steady guiding hand of our offense.
“She was the kind of leader who encouraged the younger and the older athletes. She is a good example of what our captains in the future will be expected to do. She was definitely a committed athlete in whatever she did.”
Although the victories didn’t pile up on the hardwood, Bailey helped a youth-laden squad improve and leaves behind a program that is now on solid ground.
As important as Bailey was to producing a team championship in cross country and to bringing stability to the girls basketball program, she likely will be most remembered for her final track meet as an Eagle.
After solid freshman and sophomore seasons, Bailey brought home a pair of state medals during her junior year, placing seventh in the 3,200-meter run and helping the 3,200 relay team to a sixth-place finish.
That was simply a prelude to a senior state meet in May that put a whopping exclamation mark on her prep career. Bailey nabbed a pair of individual medals as she finished fourth in the 3,200 in 12:27.29 and added a fifth-place finish in the 1,600 in 5:38.26.
It was the 3,200 relay that proved to be most memorable. Bailey anchored the squad that included juniors Bethany Zarda and Mallory Keith and freshman Christa Courtney to a second-place finish. Race winner Pittsburg-St. Mary’s Colgan was disqualified after a runner collapsed and an exchange zone violation ensued, however, thrusting the Eagles to the top of the podium as state champions.
The Maranatha runners disagreed with the ruling, and they decided among themselves to give up their medals. It was a display of sportsmanship that garnered recognition in the local paper in Shawnee, was featured on MetroSports and also went national when Christian radio station K-LOVE picked it up.
Maranatha track and field coach Bernie Zarda saw Bailey’s dynamite state meet as a fitting end for a stellar high school career.
“Ali was probably the most decorated distance runner we’ve ever had,” stated Zarda. “She finished in the top 10 in cross country for three years. She set a good pace and set a good tempo.
“For four years she’s been a very important part of our teams. She sets up so many things and she’s so much fun to be around.”
Bailey will take her distance running talent to Johnson County Community College in the fall where she will compete for the Cavaliers.