Late kick lifts Ballou to victory
Brooks Ballou just keeps winning races. Close races.
Saturday morning at the Bonner Springs Invitational, Ballou pulled out a fantastic finish by overtaking De Soto’s Angel Vasquez for the lead in the final 200 meters. Ballou then held on down the stretch and clocked a personal-best time of 16:31 in the 5,000-meter race.
“As I got him at the 200 mark, I decided that I worked all summer for this moment and it was time to go,” Ballou said.
As Ballou crossed the finish line, he pumped his fist and jumped in the air to show his excitement before offering congratulations to other top runners. In a showing of sportsmanship, the top three finishers embraced and celebrated their solid performances.
“The way I see it is that we are all out here giving it our best shot, trying to reach the same goal,” Ballou said. “If you get beat, it just means the other guy was better on that day; keep your head up.”
Ballou’s win is his third in as many races in the 2009 season, but the victory was in question until the very end of the race. Vasquez and Ballou had pulled away from the pack with about 1,000 meters remaining, but as they vanished from the onlookers at the finish line, it appeared that Ballou was in trouble. As the runners came around the corner into sight, however, Ballou powered past the tiring De Soto freshman and rocketed down the hill, where he crossed the finish line nearly three seconds ahead of Vasquez.
“I was thinking, ‘oh man, I don’t know if I can get this guy,’” Ballou said. “But when we got to that last big hill … coach Downing and I talked about it the night before. It was meant to be a gut check, so for whoever was going to win, it was going to come down to having the most guts. At that point I remembered him saying that and I thought to myself, ‘Shoot, this is my home course. I can’t let anybody beat me here.’”
Coach Bill Downing was impressed with his senior’s ability to finish, and said that his work ethic is what pushed him through on Saturday.
“We knew he had enough left in him to make a move and we knew when he had to make it,” Downing said. “It was nice to see him get the win. I think his hard work really showed through with that late push today.”
De Soto took first overall for the boys with a total of 30 points. Paola took second, followed closely by Mill Valley. Bonner finished seventh.
Bonner Springs’ Austin Epp finished 32nd in 18:24 and Matt Coffman was 36th in 18:35.
Pittsburg took first overall for the girls with a total of 82 points. Mill Valley was second and De Soto finished third.
Freshman Mandy Ballou led Bonner Springs as she finished 40th in the 4,000-meter race 17:22.
Bonner Springs next competes Saturday at Ottawa. There, Ballou will go for his fourth straight victory.
“I’d love to go get number four at Ottawa next week,” Ballou said. “I love their hills. I can’t wait.”