New programs valuable to Baker

Story by Kyle Davis

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On Oct. 10, the Baker women’s bowling team competed in its first-ever tournament at the Midstates Championship in Wichita.

Just 28 days later, on Nov. 7, the Baker wrestling team hit the mats in the first dual of the program’s history against York College and won 30-21.

Two new Baker programs made their debuts this year, building a foundation for the future, while also finding success early in the programs’ history.

“I was very confident in the abilities of coach (Kristal) Wilson and coach (Jimmy) May on building successful foundations for both our women’s bowling program and wrestling,” Associate Athletic Director Theresa Yetmar said. “But, I think even me, being as close as I am to the programs, was incredibly impressed with the results from both programs.”

May came to Baker after retiring as a high school coach, and starting a new program was one of the reasons he wanted to come to Baker. For May, coaching at the college level was a dream come true, especially coming to a new program.

With a squad of 41 wrestlers for the first year, the Wildcats went 4-0 in duals and sent 10 athletes to the national championships, seven of which were freshmen.

“For them to do what they did throughout the season was way beyond my expectations,” May said.

Now, the focus has gone from starting the program by recruiting large numbers of athletes, with a lot of talent, to recruiting eight to 10 quality athletes for next season. May has already signed several high school state champions from Oklahoma and Kansas to wrestle for Baker next year.

Even with the successful first season, May said the program still has further to go.

“We’re taking it slow. We’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “We had some success but there’s some great wrestling programs out there and we’re nowhere near where they’re at right now. It’s going to take three or four years just to really be able to compete with some of those programs, maybe longer than that.”

The bowling team also is a young squad, with five of the eight athletes being freshmen.

Leading the way for the Wildcats was freshman Caitlin Campbell, who in December was ranked No. 28 in the country among rookies. Going into the final tournament of the season at the McKendree/Baker Challenge, Campbell averaged a score of 170.17 and had two top-20 finishes.

Wilson was a three-time All-American at Wichita State University, and Campbell said she has been very helpful as a coach.

“She is, personally, one of the best coaches that I’ve ever had because all the people that tried to coach me in like high school and stuff, it didn’t really seem like they actually helped, but she’s been such a great help to me and everyone else on the team,” Campbell said.

Yetmar said it was a huge effort to get the two programs off the ground, but the teams are well worth the work.

"I mean, there's a lot of work that goes into building a program," Yetmar said, "but I can honestly say that all the work we did prior to, and now, and will do in the future has been completely worth it because both sets of student-athletes have really given our department and our campus a new dimension, and we're certainly glad to have them as one of us."  <br/>