Entering last weekend’s Class 1 State Championships with 12 athletes competing in 14 events, Van-Far head boys track and field coach Kevin Baldwin knew his team had a chance to win back-to-back state championships with another focused effort in Jefferson City.
After scoring 11 team points on Friday along with 12 boys qualifying for finals to be held on day two, it was only a matter of time before the Indians flexed their muscles once again as the best track and field program in the state.
Van-Far’s athletes shined by winning state titles in three events and finishing with 64 team points to clinch a second straight state championship. This time they crushed second place Worth County by an astounding 16.5 points.
The Indians state championship gives the district a state title in four consecutive sports seasons. Van-Far boys track won the crown in the spring of 2017, cheerleaders won a title last fall, the boys basketball team recently won state during the past winter season, and now the boys track program has repeated as champs.
“I’m so proud of our kids and the way they approached the state meet this year,” Baldwin said. “They were very focused and understood what they had to do to succeed…I am very proud of our kids. The leadership that our seniors provided and the response that the rest of the team came through with provided many memories that this grateful coach will cherish the rest of my life. To my kids I say thank you!”
The Indians were led by Josh Hodde, who had an outstanding state championships one year after an injury forced him out of the program’s 2017 run to the title.
Hodde won the state title in the 110-meter hurdles (15.45) after having the second-best time in preliminaries (15.58). He also won the 300-meter hurdles state title (40.55) by nearly a half-second.
In the long jump event, Hodde leaped 20’05.50” to place third. By himself, Hodde scored a total of 26 of his team’s 64 points.
“Josh Hodde entered this season with a bit of a chip on his shoulder after fracturing his hip last spring and missing the state run knowing that he was one of the best hurdlers in the state,” Baldwin noted. “This year, his focus and determination was one of a young man that set out to prove to himself and those around him that he could be one of the best hurdlers in the state. Well, he definitely did just that winning both the 110-meter and 300-meter hurdle races at state.”
Though he didn’t earn team points, Crider had the ninth best time in the 300-meter hurdles as he failed to qualify for the finals.
Van-Far scored another 29 team points through its dominance of the four relay races.
The 4×200-meter relay squad of Jacob Garner, Verlyn Johnson, Parker Wallace, and Crider won the state title after winning the race with a time of 1:32.05.
The same group of runners just missed winning the state title in the 4×100 by .06 seconds as they placed second with a time of 45.59.
Van-Far’s 4×400 squad of Brennan Wheeler, Dillion Minor,