In 1919, Leonard ‘Pete’ Bahan was a legendary Briar Jumper football quarterback, who later went on to the University of Notre Dame and led an undefeated Fighting Irish team to the national championship.
A century later, another Somerset High School athlete is taking a similar historic journey.
On Friday, at the Joan Spurlock Track Complex, Somerset High School senior Kendall Burgess signed her national letter of intent to compete on the University of Notre Dame track team.
“I was contacted by Notre Dame’s jumps coach, Wayne Pate, in August, and we got along really well right away,” Burgess stated. “Since I wasn’t allowed to go on any official visits, I did a lot of research about the school and the program. I had phone calls with the coaching staff and a zoom call with a few girls from the team.”
“When I visited campus, they were nice enough to show me around and tell me more about the school,” Burgess explained. “After the visit, I knew that was where I wanted to be. Notre Dame’s strong academics, beautiful campus, and the welcoming atmosphere of the team helped make the decision easy and I couldn’t be happier.”
Over 100 years ago, the 5’9”, 162 lb. Somerset quarterback Pete Bahan was making history by running for touchdowns and later putting his former high school on the map after he gained national attention at Notre Dame.
Kendall Burgess, at 5’6, 125 lbs., has made her own modern day history and was rewarded with an athletic scholarship to one of the most prestigious academic and athletic institutions in the world. Burgess not only won two state championship track state titles on the same day, but she garnered two state runner-up finishes that day and scored a program-best 36 points in a single state championship meet. The Lady Jumpers track team finished as state runners-up that year (2019) with 46.5 points
In Pete Bahan’s first two seasons at Notre Dame, he played at the running back position before being moved to quarterback for his undefeated 1919 team. In comparison, Kendall Burgess was always a long jumper throughout most of her early track career and only tried to triple jump less than four months before winning a state title in that event.
“Track has changed my life in a lot of ways,” Burgess stated. “God has blessed me with my athletic abilities and He has given me the opportunity to go through this recruiting process and to really get me out of my comfort zone when it comes to meeting new people.”
“I am thankful that I have been a part of a team who encourages each other and has each other’s backs,” Burgess continued. “I am so grateful to all of my coaches, especially my mom, who have invested time and energy into helping me be the best that I can be.”
While Pete Bahan has been forever immortalized with a bronze plaque in the Somerset High School Ray Correll Athletic Hall of Fame, Kendall Burgess has been busy on the track building a case for her own future immortalization.
Despite missing her high school track season her junior year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Burgess won KHSAA state titles in the long jump and triple jump during her sophomore season in 2019, and placed state runner-up in the 100 meters and 200 meters. Burgess also won a pair of state indoor titles in the long jump and the triple jump.
During the pandemic shutdown, Burgess won a national long jump title by winning the NSAF AthleticNET Virtual Nationals track championships. Burgess’ national title winning distance was nearly nine inches better than her nearest competitor.
Burgess’ distances in both the long jump and triple jump made her a heavy favorite to defend her state championship titles in 2020, but COVID intervened. Also, Burgess’ sprint times were getting even stronger, making a good argument that she might have won even more state titles in the 2020 sprinting events.
With her historic college decision already made, Burgess now has her sights set on an illustrious senior track season at Somerset High School in 2021.
“I hope to increase the long jump record at Somerset, while also trying to set records in the triple jump, 100 meters and 200 meters,” Burgess stated. “I also have my sights set on breaking the state long and triple jump records next spring. I can’t wait to get back on the track next season.”
And while it might have taken nearly a century for history to repeat itself at Somerset High School, Kendall Burgess’ career on the track will be one to be remember for another 100 years.
STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.