Travis Baldwin was not really sweating his times this past Saturday.
The Utica junior was more proud of sweeping the 100 and 200 at Licking Heights’ Hornet Invitational. That in itself was an accomplishment for Baldwin, who proved to be the best at cutting his way through the stiff wind and a temperature that never hit 50 degrees.
“I don’t really know any of these guys. I was just coming in hoping to do my best, come in first,” said Baldwin, who also placed second in the long jump. “It is not easy for anyone. It is cold out here, but you have to adjust to it.”
Baldwin’s winning times of 11.75 and 23.57 were strong given the conditions. He has hopes of soon approaching 11.29 — his personal best — and 11.1, the school record.
Baldwin also could win the Mid-Buckeye Conference title in May in both events. He placed fourth in the 100 in 2012, behind three seniors, including teammate Toby Moone.
“Definitely when it starts to get warmer,” Baldwin said. “I actually run track mostly for football. I come out here to stay in shape, so I am not sitting around all offseason.”
The Redskins have flown under the radar so far this season, but they piled up 129.5 points at Heights. They finished as runners-up to the host Hornets.
Baldwin was Utica’s only champion, but the Redskins had a bevy of second-place finishes led by Kyle Knezovich, who was second in both hurdle races and the pole vault. Levi Boggs was second in the shot put and third in the discus.
Utica is replacing two graduated members from its record-breaking 400 and 800 relays, but the Redskins’ cupboard is far from bare. The 400 relay of Hunter Selmon, Baldwin, T.J. Melick and Braedon Taylor led Heights for about 380 meters until Heights anchor Devon Eubanks stole the race at the end.
“We have one other guy back, but we have some replacements,” Baldwin said. “We are coming for the MBC in that, too.”
The Hank Smith Invitational at Heath is the unofficial midway point of the regular season, and it tends to be a first glance at the area’s top athletes.
The meet begins at 10 a.m. Saturday with field events. The running finals are at 12:30 p.m., and most of the area’s heavy hitters will be in attendance.
The local teams participating are Granville, Heath, Lakewood, Licking Valley, Newark, Newark Catholic, Sheridan and Watkins Memorial. With the weather warming — although the predicted high for Saturday is under 60 degrees — coaches are at the point of their season they allow their top athletes to let loose and set their first solid mark for the season.
The honor roll
The first installment of the Licking County Track Honor Roll is available at www.watkinstrack.org. Coaches are asked to enter their individuals at baumspage.com.