Archive for Thursday, April 3, 2008

The eephus pitch

April 3, 2008

On Friday, the Baldwin Relays were exciting to watch, even if they may have kept some people from making the start of the KU-Villanova game. It was the first track meet I've covered so far at any level and was not the dull, slow-paced event of which I'd heard other sports reporters talk.

My job was pretty simple; just carry a camera around and try to capture the best shots of athletes in action that I could. I could get the results of the races and field events later, as long as I could get some

photos and speak with athletes.

That's not a bad gig when you consider how predictable track and field is compared to photographing a baseball or softball game. It's much easier, and you get to see all of the most exciting parts of the events without worrying about trying not to miss anything.

But the ease of the job is not the point, it was just one reason I didn't mind all that much when the sun went down, it started to get cold and I started thinking about the 'Hawks.

The point is the Baldwin Relays featured some very athletically gifted young men and women. Apart from the De Soto athletes, it was awesome to see a set of twins from Bonner Springs run the 100 and 200 in 10.86 seconds and 22.65 seconds. It was also pretty impressive to see a freshman, De Soto's Jordan Riffel, close behind them. In one heat of the 200, Riffel - at 22.78 - was .12 seconds over the previous meet record.

That's getting it.

There are some days I can't get my vehicle to start in 22.78 seconds, let alone travel 200 meters.

Another impressive moment was watching Eudora senior - and three-time state champion - Emily Ballock run the 300 hurdles. That is, watching a Div. 1-bound track athlete in high school.

It was the smoothest and most effortless-looking performance I saw on the day.

Barbara Hartz and Ballock squared off in the 100 hurdles, and a photo-finish race ensued. Hartz won by .03 of a second. I tried to photo the finish and the outcome wasn't worth much. It was a blur, no exaggeration.

Then Shelbi Petty's performances in distance running was another event, like Riffel's, where one listened to the final times, heard she's only a freshman and thought track performances in the next few years in the area could be superb. The athletes showed themselves to be among the region's best.

De Soto junior Jamel Townsend and Eudora sophomore Justin Ballock, in their respective running and jumping events, brought to mind next winter's showdown on the basketball floor that could have scouts salivating.

On Thursday it became evident to me that this area features some pretty dominating athletes in Kansas. The older Ballock is obviously one of them who gets a lot of well-deserved attention.

But, like her younger brother and Riffel, there are young athletes in the area who are right there with the rest of the state. I always thought of the Topeka schools, and Wichita schools and Kansas City schools as possessing the upper echelon athletes.

But they are here in this area, too. It just took track, a very specialized and technical sort of sport, for me to observe some of the best in this area.

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