Some of Kansas’ fastest high school runners are testing one another today at the picturesque, sharply rolling Wamego County Club, where Girard High School’s Michaela Bauer and Northeast’s Austin Bogina were having their final opportunities to win championships.

Some of Kansas’ fastest high school runners are testing one another today at the picturesque, sharply rolling Wamego County Club, where Girard High School’s Michaela Bauer and Northeast’s Austin Bogina were having their final opportunities to win championships.

Michaela was to run in Class 4A competition at 9:30 a.m. and Austin 30 minutes earlier in Class 3-2-1A.

Michaela had a good chance to finish in the top five, their coaches said, while Austin would contend for first place.

Michaela finished in ninth place at the big meet as a sophomore, her first year of running cross country. She struggled with injuries her junior year and finished 25th in Wamego, outside the medal sweepstakes.

“It’s a lot of pressure,” Michaela said. “I know everyone expects me to go out there and do something great. But, honestly, it’s something I want to do for myself since it’s my senior year. I want to come home and be proud of my season.”

Girard cross country coach Matt Logue said El Dorado senior Molly Milbourn stood as the clear favorite. Milbourn won her Class 4A regional with a time of 14:44; by comparison, Bauer ran 16:25 at regionals. Michaela set a course record at the CNC League meet in Baxter Springs, with a 15:02.

“Milbourn won the KU Relays last year in track,” Logue said. “It’s not only Kansas kids, it’s runners from all over the region. Nobody’s going to touch her unless she has a bad day. The rest of the field is wondering who’s going to get second.”

Logue believed Michaela stood a good chance to place high in a loaded 4A field that included sophomore Hadyn Herlocker, Michaela’s teammate, and Baxter Springs sophomore Paige White. “She’s running for the top five,” he said.

“There’re eight girls in the state who could be second. A couple of them will have performance anxiety and run worse than normal. Somebody’s going to run lights out and I hope Michaela’s that runner.”

Logue explained that she started as a freshman 800 meter runner. “That summer, she put in a lot of volume and we found out that she was a good cross country runner,” he said.

“We had her at the wrong distance.”

Michaela describes a cross country race as “the longest 15 minutes of your life.”

“You forget the pain and focus on what you’re trying to get done,” she said. “Once you finish it and you can be proud of what you’ve done, it feels good. Even though the race didn’t feel good, you know you’ve accomplished something.”

Michaela places high on the Girard honor roll, balancing athletics with academics. She maintains a 4.0 GPA, calls English her best subject and considers Family and Consumer Sciences her favorite class. She’s undecided on her college destination and her future major, and she includes running cross country at the collegiate level as part of her plans.

Logue says that Michaela’s intelligence separates her from other runners. “She’s probably more intelligent than the average high school runner,” her coach said.

“She’s patient. Somewhere, she figured out that split running’s more efficient. That’s hard to teach high school kids.”
Bogina’s coach, Piper Richardson, said Thursday that he could clock 30 seconds faster than the 16:57 he ran to win regionals by almost a minute last weekend at Burlington.

And she said it would probably take 16:30 to contend for the championship. “We have been doing speed work with 400 and 800-meter runs and a 10-mile recovery run the day after, but I’m not sure there is a slower pace for Austin,” said Richardson.

“He is so fast and running so well right now that it’s hard for him to cut back. He runs all of his workouts full out.”

However, as badly as Bogina wants to improve last year’s second place result at the state meet, he will be a good sport if someone proves better today. “He is as competitive as they come,” Richardson said.

“He has so much heart that he is going out to win it unless somebody has it in him to beat him at the end. He runs with a smile on his face and shakes hands afterward. If he doesn’t win, he will be the first to congratulate the kid who does.”

Richardson said Austin would do a 45-minute run around Arma Friday morning before they left for Topeka and drove 35 minutes to Wamego this morning. “He’s been doing it for four years, so he’s ready to go out and win this this thing,” she said.

James R. Campbell can be reached at james.campbell@morningsun.net.