The Eephus Pitch
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 slow-paced experience I'd heard about from other sports reports.
My job was pretty simple; 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, if I could just get some photos and talk to some 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 missing anything.
But the ease and enjoyment 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 'Hawks.
The point is the Baldwin Relays featured some very athletically gifted young men and women. Apart from the Eudora athletes, it was awesome to see a set of high school 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 even 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 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 performance, like Riffel's, where one listed to the final times, heard she's only a freshman and thought the next few years in the Eudora area could very well see some top-notch, talented upperclassmen on the track. The athletes and local teams showed themselves to be ready to compete with anybody in the state.
De Soto junior Jamel Townsend and Eudora sophomore Justin Ballock, in their respective running and jumping events, could make a basketball coach at the next level salivate over the matchup on the court.
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 this area who are right there with the rest of the state. I always thought of the Topeka, Wichita and Kansas City schools as possessing the upper-echelon athletes.
But they are here in this area, too. It just took track, and this meet in particular, for me to observe some of the best in this area.