Baker University Relay Carnival

burelaysmedal1The  Baker University Relays were founded in 1924. Under the leadership of Athletic Director Emil Liston and coach George Bretnall, the event quickly became one of the premier track and field meets in Kansas. Throughout its history the Baker University Relay Carnival included a variety of events and classes of competition. For several years the Relays had three high school and a junior college division. According to a 1940 newspaper report, the event spanned two-days attracting over 600 athletes and included a tennis competition alongside the track meet. In 1941 word of the Baker Relays success and innovation had reached New Mexico. The Hobbs Daily News-Sun described the chute system to organize groups of athletes prior to races as “like a real rodeo.”

The Hobbs (NM) Daily News Sun 5-27-41 clipThe Second World War interrupted the Relays, canceling the event in 1944 and 1945. Likewise, there was no junior college division because nearly all of those schools eliminated their track programs during the war. The time off was brief as in October 1945, Athletic Director and track coach Emil Liston “announced the resumption of the Baker University Relays next spring. For nearly a quarter-of a century Baker was host to a large number of high school and junior colleges in the annual meet here.” This announcement was accompanied by an outline of Liston’s plan to rebuild all of the Baker’s athletic programs.ljw 10-19-45 clip

During the early years the Baker University Relay Carnival rivaled other prominent meets, such as the Kansas Relays. The two meets were held on back-to-back weekends and became mainstays of most Kansas high school track schedules. Following the war, the meet quickly returned to its former status. In 1956, “The 31st annual Baker University Relays carnival Saturday has attracted 51 schools with an entry list of about 650 athletes.” The meet results for 1957 indicated four divisions of competition: Junior College, AA, A, and B class high schools. Slight changes occurred in the Relays format over the next two decades. Junior college and AA high school competition was dropped in 1964. Despite this change, 49 schools still competed in 1965.

ottaw herald 4-27- 56 clipThe Baker University Relay Carnival continued until 1975 when the track and field program was dropped. After a 19 year intermission and the renovation of the Hey-Metzger in 1993, coach Dennis Weber and Athletic Director Charlie Richard resurrected the meet. “We both felt like the Baker Relays was one of the premier meets of the region and that we need to bring it back,” Weber explained in the 1996 meet program, “Many of these men and women who had participated in the meet had such a great experience they wanted to become involved again.”

The resurrected meet continues to feature top high school competition. Like its earlier iteration it serves a showcase of local talent and a great recruiting tool for the program. In recent years the meet has also featured a college division, typically held on a different date. Both the Baker High School Relays and the Baker College Relays have been held continuously since 1994, with the exception of the 2006 track renovation. Today the college relays serves as one of the first “warm-up” meets of the season. The high school meet continues its traditions of attracting top-competition but is no longer divides schools by size.