Bonner Springs re-established girls track tradition in 2011
Wichita Not long ago, the Bonner Springs High School girls track program was barely treading water.
The Braves’ roster was down to just a handful of athletes and was struggling to remain relevant in the Kaw Valley League, as well as the state.
The 2011 season was a rebirth of sorts for the Braves, however. Participation surged thanks to an influx of underclassmen. Meanwhile, the squad’s veterans delivered consistently and gave the squad a solid core.
The result was the best girls track season in recent memory. Among the Braves’ greatest accomplishments were a sixth-place finish at the KVL championships, a first-place team trophy at the Bonner Springs Invitational and a pair of Class 4A state medalists.
For BSHS coach Bill Downing, it was a season worth celebrating. It’s also the first of what he hopes will be many steps forward for the program.
“It’s a building block,” Downing said. “The key about a building block is you’ve got to find things you can keep building on.”
Bonner Springs’ top building block the past four years was Bridgett Bradley. A four-time state qualifier, Bradley closed out her career with a seventh-place finish in the discus at state. It was the second time she medaled at state, and during her first three years she was the lone medalist — and at times the Braves’ only female qualifier.
The Braves’ other state medalist — sophomore Bethany Bailey — is expected to be one of the top building blocks for the future. She placed fifth at state in the pole vault with a clearance of 10 feet, 6 inches, and nearly jumped 11-0.
“You saw that right at the end she’s vaulting with these top girls in the state,” Downing said.
More building blocks fell into place this year than just state medalists. The 1,600-meter relay team of sophomore Emily Hunt, junior Emily Wilson, freshman Cheyenne Hale and senior Lindsay Hunt turned in its fastest time of the season while placing 16th in 4 minutes, 19.56 seconds. Three of the four runners will be back in 2012.
“They found out they can compete with the top teams,” Downing said. “That’s going to make a big difference for the program because you’re coming in with that expectation of getting after it and seeing what hard work can do.
“The two alternates (from the relay team) will be back, too,” Downing noted. “That’s the next step to getting a relay down here. That will carry over into the other relays, the (3,200-meter relay and 400-meter relay) will all have a chance next year. We’re just getting stronger and stronger.”
Additional returning talent will include distance standouts Scintila Capalla and Mandy Ballou, throwers Erica Wilson and Maryssa Peterson, sprinters Tyreeka Johnson and Jene Williams, and hurdler Kelsey Ballou-Lyngstad.
Downing also has considered the Clark Middle School eighth-grade class and points out even more talent will be pouring into the program in 2012.
The combination of veterans and newcomers should give the Braves depth like they haven’t experienced in years.
“Having more kids provides some kids like Bethany the opportunity to be able to focus on the vault instead of getting strung out so far,” Downing said. “The hurdlers will get to focus more on the hurdles, the jumpers will get to focus more on that. We’re going to get a high jumper next year — the little Ledbetter girl (CMS student Allie Ledbetter) is coming up, and she’s a five-foot high jumper already.
“(That depth) will provide more competition for getting onto relays, and we’ll be able to fill some spots. If we can fill all of the (varsity) spots from the 100 to 3,200, and then the hurdles and jumps and throws, it’s just going to help the whole program overall.”
Now that the season’s complete, the Braves are headed back to work in preparation for other sports for some athletes and year-round track training for others. Downing already is looking to the 2012 season with anticipation, but for the moment he plans to savor the successes of 2011.
“It might not have seemed that at all times I was happy about things, but I was very pleased,” Downing said of the season. “I saw a lot of good things this year, but I had my end goal of how the season was going to wrap up and this (two state medalists) was part of it.”