By KEVIN THOMPSON
ULYSSES — It was no April Fool's prank that Garden City's first track meet of the season was run in good weather.
The weather was warm, the breezes merely breezes, and the competition was just what Buffaloes' coach Mike Smith ordered.
It was also what other area schools hoped for in the April 1 running of the Max Heibert Invitational.
The Lady Buffaloes finished second with 116 points, behind Perryton's 172 and just ahead of Dodge City's 109.
For Smith, this was a good meet by which to measure his team.
"It's like in any sport, you want to have a meet to know where you stand and what you need to work on," he said. "The main thing is everyone's competing hard."
Garden City picked up 24 points early as they swept the top three spots in the pole vault. Senior Carley Trentman won with a jump of 8-6, followed by Kelli Miller and Audrey Gerber at 8-0.
For Trentman, her jump is just half a foot off her personal best.
"I feel really good with this as a good starting point," she said.
To go 1-2-3 in this event also looks good for Garden City, she added, especially with her teammates starting the year at the 8-foot mark.
"That was 24 points. I'll take that any time," a pleased coach Smith said. "They're already close to PR's in the first meet of the year, but I think everyone's a little nervous. We'll continue to get better and be in pretty good shape."
Jennifer Calderwood of Ulysses placed fourth at 7-6.
Freshman Taylor Caine of Garden City got another early first for the Lady Buffaloes with a javelin throw of 99-09.
She scratched the first two throws, but put it together to win on her fourth and final throw, her coach, Derek Goble, said.
"She's a hard worker and this paid dividends for her," he said of Caine's first varsity experience. "She'll just keep improving through the year. She's got a lot of distance. She's going to keep adding on to her PR's."
Karessa Nordyke of Hugoton placed third.
Hugoton's Nicole Kinser, last year's Class 4A state champion, won the triple jump at 35-4. Bailey Nickel of Scott City was fourth.
In the shot put, Kaylea Britton of Ulysses was second and Johna McClelland of Garden City finished fourth.
Britton also finished second in the discus with a throw of 105-5.
In the 100-meter dash, a set of false starts added to the drama. Garden City's Chinasa Ekweariri finished second, but her heat had a series of false starts.
Kelly Wycoff of Scott City was caught up in the mess.
"The first time we just had a false start. The second time people behind us kept talking so we had to start again. The third time someone slipped out of the blocks," she said after finishing fifth.
Garden City's Taryn Tempel, who finished sixth, was just as surprised at having to run the same race over and over.
"It was exhausting because we ran it all the way through. We saw other girls who kept running so we kept running," Tempel said. "We got down to the end and they told us we had to walk all the way back and run it again. Our times definitely weren't where we wanted."
Garden City had a solid showing in the 200-meter dash. Cyndie Brown was second in 26.59, Ekweariri was third and Tempel fifth.
Kayla Doll of Garden City won the 800 meters easily in 2:28.17, setting a meet record. Teammate Alex Miller finished third, KaLea Barlow of Ulysses was fourth and Chelsi Hess of Scott City was fifth.
"They ran strong. They just need to get the handoffs," Smith said.
Hugoton had a good showing in the 400-meter dash. Kinser finished second in 1:04 and BayLee Hoskinson was fourth in 1:05.6. Garden City's Naysa Harman was third in 1:05.5.
Chelsea Jackson of Garden City finished fifth in the 1,600 meters and fourth in the 3,200 meters.
In the girls 4x800-meter relay, Savannah Peters opened up a 40-meter lead on the final exchange and Harman extended it to 50 meters by the final lap, holding off a late Perryton charge to help Garden City win by two seconds.
The 4x100 team was disqualified on a handoff, but with two new girls running, that was not unexpected, Smith said.
Garden City found redemption in the 4x400 relay, placing second 10 seconds behind Perryton and well ahead of third-place Scott City.
For Ulysses coach Eric Flaton, this was a good meet upon which to guage his girls, who finished sixth with 36 points.
"The girls' team last year was almost nonexistent," he said, remarking on fewer girls scoring points. "Today, the girls stepped up and got plenty of points. It was a great first meet, great to learn from."
Liberal was fifth in the team standings (55), followed by Hugoton (39), Ulysses and Scott City (27).
In the boys' division, Garden City finished third behind Liberal (152) and Dodge City (113) with 98.
The Buffaloes got a good start to the day on the track with a top finish in the 4x800 relay.
Erik Chester took the lead on the first leg with a split of 2:03.2. Asa Gottsponer opened the lead to 40 meters on the second leg, and Jonny Bernasky and Mikey Ramirez, running with a sore knee, finished in sub-2:07 splits to give Garden City a win in 8:26.62, nearly 10 seconds ahead of Liberal.
Though not as fast as the group's 8:05 at state last year, Smith was pleased with their showing for the first meet of the year.
"It's a good start," he said. "They all looked strong. You can tell cross country has helped the guys who run that and Asa is just a strong athlete."
Smith was a bit concerned with Ramirez's knee problem, but overall, it was a good showing for the group, he said.
The 3,200 meters later in the evening featured three of the area's premier distance runners. Heber Jiminez won in 10:12.58, beating out Garden City's Bernasky (10:18.14) and Ulysses' Israel Mendoza (10:22.65).
"I was aiming for 10:15, at least," Jimenez said of a target time. He said he kept a slight lead on Bernasky late in the race before the final lap, then decided to kick on the final lap.
His best time last year was 10:08.
"I plan to keep chopping time," he said.
Mendoza said the plan was to run with the lead pack, and Jimenez just had a better kick. He said his goal was to come in right under 11:00, so coming in a half minute faster was a huge payoff.
"I felt awesome about that," he said.
Garden City's 4x100 relay team placed first in 44.04. Steven Fowler, Johnathan Duvall and Jeremy Ensz, the first three legs, all ran this event last year. Senior Raul Silva, in his first time, ran the anchor.
"We just wanted to get the handoffs this meet," Fowler said. "We're only going to get better and go for the school record this year."
Making the exchanges and getting an established time was the team's goal, Smith said. Getting first was a bonus.
Scott City finished second in 44.27, followed by Ulysses in 44.66.
Silva also won the 100-meter dash in 11.05, just ahead of Dalton Smith of Scott City and Duvall taking third.
In the 400-meter dash, Tyler Hess of Scott City was second in 52.45 and Hugoton's Skylar McLain was third in 52.74.
Garden City's Jayden Delarosa, Ian Stone and Gottsponer took the final three places.
In the 800 meters, Scott City's Joey Meyer used a strong second lap to pull away from the field to win in 2:04.29.
He ran on the outside shoulder of the lead runner at end of the first lap, then took off on next curve.
"When I got past the first 100 on the second lap, coach (Jim Turner) told me to start kicking and get a lead. And I just kept it," he said.
Josh Jarnagin of Ulysses placed second in the 110-meter hurdles in 15.48. Duvall finished fifth and Colborn Couchman of Scott City was sixth.
Scott City picked up a first place in the javelin as Jason Williams threw 161-04, nearly 16 feet better than the second-place throw. Teammate Mason Turner was sixth.
"I'm basically focusing on getting my steps down and exploding my throw," the senior Williams said.
Seth Alexander and Mark Petersen went third and fifth for the Buffaloes.
Avory Stegman of Hugoton was the lone area placer in the shot put, finishing third with a throw of 45-01.
In the high jump, Garrett Kissell of Ulysses placing fourth at 5-4.
In the long jump, area athletes fared well. Tate Annis of Ulysses was first at 20-08.75 and Ensz of Garden City was second at 20-0.25. Israel Tinoco of Hugoton finished fourth and Juan Hernandez of Garden City was fifth.
The pole vault area became a Tiger pit as Ulysses took three of the top four spots, led by Chris Oliver at 11-0. Tyler Oliver was second and Bo Zirkle was fourth. Brett Cady of Garden City was fifth.
In the discus, Derek Bohl of Ulysses finished third at 132-9.
"This was by far the most surprising result for me," Flaton said. "Last year we didn't have anybody doing the pole and this year we go 1, 2 and 4."
In the triple jump, Couchman of Scott City was the area's highest finisher in third. Stone of Garden City placed sixth.
In the 200-meter dash, Silva was second in 23.13. Annis and Armando Sandoval of Ulysses finished third and fourth, and Smith and Dalton Buehler of Scott City rounded out the field.
Duvall placed third in the 300-meter hurdles in 40.79 and Couchman was third.
Ulysses finished fourth with 79 points, followed by Scott City (68), Hugoton (31) and Perryton (17).