WICHITA — The Northern Valley boys couldn’t have scripted a better send-off for Chuck Fessenden.
The Huskies sent their longtime coach out with a state championship, wrapping up the Class 1A boys team title on Sunday at the state track and field meet at Cessna Stadium.
Fessenden, a three-sport coach for the Huskies, is retiring after 43 years at Northern Valley.
“We did this for him,” Northern Valley sprinter Ivan Varela said. “We wanted him to leave on a good note. He’s the best out here in the state. He’s done this for 43 years, coaching track, basketball and football — that’s rare. I like to see that Coach Fess retired as a state champion.”
Fessenden has multiple state titles in football, basketball and track.
“It’s special because it’s my last one. It’s a special deal,” an emotional Fessenden said.
The battle for the Class 1A team title between Northern Valley and Hanover came down to the 1,600 relay on Sunday. The Huskies entered the relay with a 2.5-point lead over Hanover, which also qualified for the relay.
Northern Valley’s team of Riley Sides, Nicolas Stutsman, Aidan Baird and Varela sealed the championship by winning the 1,600 relay in 3:29.96, clinching the Huskies' first state track team championship in more than 30 years.
“We haven’t been able to run (the 1,600 relay) for most of the year,” Fessenden said. “We kind of got it put together here at the end of the season. We ran really well at the regional and we did well again today.”
Varela jumped in front down the stretch of the final leg to seal it.
“I felt like we had it in the bag in the last 50 (meters),” Varela said. “I felt another level of energy out of nowhere. It was exciting crossing the line first.”
Northern Valley finished with 55.5 points in the team standings. Hanover was second with 48 and Osborne took third with 38 points, led by Darrien Holloway’s state titles in the 110 and 300 hurdles.
Huskies senior Caden Bach won his second straight javelin title and placed third in the high jump. Stutsman took second in the pole vault while Baird placed fourth.
“We knew things had to go right (to win the team title) but we had a chance,” Fessenden said. “We got off to a good start in the field events. We got two placers in the pole vault and we had two in the jav, and then we placed in the high jump.
“At a meet like this, a lot of things can go wrong, and things went pretty well for us to start with.”
Bach won the javelin on his final throw with a toss of 186 feet.
“He came up big-time at the end of the javelin,” Fessenden said. “The Olpe kid (Max Blaufuss) thew a 175 on his last throw. (Bach) stepped up big-time. The bigger the event, the better he does usually.”
Varela led the Huskies’ effort on the track, taking second in the 400 (50.44) and fourth in the 200 (23.11). The junior was also seventh in the 100 with an 11.38.
Varela joined the Huskies this year after transferring from Southern Valley High School in Nebraska.
“Coming in here, I had to be really mentally tough because I didn’t know about all these competitors we had to run against,” Varela said. “I knew during every race I had to make a plan and execute the plan. I’m just really happy I transferred here now.”
The 1,600 relay teams were getting set to run Saturday night before rain and lightning caused the meet to be pushed into a third day for the first time in meet history. Sunday morning brought another delay before the relays and remaining field events were finally completed in the afternoon.
“It was a heck of a wait,” Fessenden said. “This has never happened before. It’s the longest track meet ever. Even (Sunday), you come down here and you want to run and you’re excited and you want to finish it, and then we have another delay. The kids handled it pretty well.”
BAIRD WINS FOURTH 400-METER DASH TITLE: Northern Valley’s Paige Baird won her fourth straight Class 1A championship in the 400, clocking a 58.39 to edge Lincoln’s Aubry Donley’s 58.91.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Baird said. “I’m really excited to go out like that for my senior year. It’s going to be a memory forever.”
Baird, a five-time state champion in track for her career, also placed second in the 100 hurdles (15.29), second in the 300 hurdles (45.38) and fifth in the 200 (26.30).
“I’m really going to miss track,” Baird said. “I’ve had great supporters throughout the years. I’ve just been taking everything in this year.”