By BRETT MARSHALL
Traveling to Dodge City on Thursday for the 2013 Western Athletic Conference track and field championship will be a perfect tune-up for the Class 6A regional championship, coincidentally held at the same Memorial Stadium facility on May 17.
That's how the Garden City Buffaloes boys and girls track teams will view Thursday's sneak preview when they take on host Dodge City, Hays, Great Bend and Liberal to determine team and individual champions.
Garden City's Lady Buffs are favored to defend their 2012 team championship, the first such title for them since 1992. The boys, meanwhile, will look for solid performances in a variety of events, but will have a tough time taking on Hays, the three-time defending Class 5A state champs, who also are favored to make it four in a row later this month in Wichita.
The meet gets under way at 4 p.m. with finals in all field events. All track events will be timed finals with no preliminaries being run in any events. Those start at 6 p.m. with the 4x800-meter relay.
The Lady Buffs won the 2012 team title with 124 points to Liberal's 98, while Hays was third with 67. Hays' boys walked off with the title by scoring 177 points, while Dodge City was second with 57. Garden City and Liberal tied for third with 55 points.
"We know it's gonna be tough, just by going to meets where the other (WAC) schools are there," GCHS head coach Mike Smith said. "The girls will finish high and then you'll see Dodge City and Hays. Then, Hays' boys obviously are really good, being the 5A state champion. Liberal has improved. The rest of us are pretty even. We'll just hope that we can split up some of the points. I think our girls have a good chance to repeat, but Hays' girls have improved and their strength is in the throws and hurdles, where we aren't as strong."
Looking at names in virtually every event, both in the boys and girls divisions, and you can find some of the elite competitors in Kansas for the 2013 track season.
Perhaps the highlight race of the day will come in both the boys' 110-meter high hurdles and the 300-meter intermediate hurdles, where Hays' Adam Deterding defends his title against Garden City's Jonathan DuVall. The pair each won a state championship in the 110s in 2012, Deterding in Class 5A and DuVall in 6A. The two met earlier this season at the Valley Center Invitational, Deterding once again taking first. Since then, however, DuVall has been on a tear in what has become his strongest event, clocking a 14.00 on Friday at the Derby Invitational, making it the fastest time in Kansas this season, while also equaling the all-time Telegram best set in 1966 by Cimarron's Roger Timken, when it was then the 120-yard high hurdles. Timken's time has been converted according to guidelines established by the Kansas State High School Activities Association and the National Federation of State High Schools.
DuVall will also attempt to defend his 300-meter hurdle title, but Liberal's Trenton Hammond may enter as the favorite after a blistering 37.47 mark on April 30 at the Garden City Invitational, where DuVall struggled by hitting three hurdles and getting his stepping way off, finishing third at 39.27. Hammond's time is the fastest in Kansas this year for all classes.
For the girls, the Lady Buffs will rely on their three relay teams and their middle- and long-distance runners in pursuit of their second straight title.
The Lady Buffs enter the meet with the fastest times among the five schools in the 4x100-meter relay (51.72), 4x400-meters (4:11.59) and the 4x800-meters (9:57.14).
Taryn Tempel has the best marks in the 400-meters (1:01.26) and the triple jump (35-3.50), but has just a one-quarter inch lead over Hays' Wendy Zimmerman. Kayla Doll (2:20.38), Alex Miller (5:25.83 and 11:33.86) will be the favorites to win the 800-, 1600- and 3,200-meter runs.
Dodge City's Summer Wilson is among the top Class 6A performers in the high jump (5-2), long jump (16-10) and 100-meter hurdles (15.30). Liberal's Jai Chapman will challenge Wilson in the 100-meter hurdles and is one of the top 300-meter hurdlers in Class 5A (49.42). Chapman and Dodge City's Brekk Flax are the favorites in the 100-meter dash, coming in with times of 12.67 and 12.88 seconds. Great Bend's Selam Ball (10-0) and Hannah Middleton (9-06.25) and Garden's Taylor Linenberger (9-0) are the pole vault favorites.
For the boys, Hays would have to either have a flat tire on its bus and arrive late, or have an outbreak of the flu to not win the team title. A year ago, they had compiled enough points in the field events to win the meet even before a single race was held on the track.
The Indians are once again poised to dominate, with Deterding the leader in the high jump (6-08) and triple jump (43-09.25), while Cade Sharp has the top mark in the shot put (56-0.50). Dodge City's Bryce Sonday will challenge in the shot (51-01) and has the top discus throw of 168-02.
The Buffaloes' boys should be right in the mix for titles in the 4x100 and 4x400 relay events, entering with times of 42.88 and 3:26.42. Hays has the top 4x4 time of 3:26.18 and Liberal is close behind at 3:28.51. Hays' 43.7 trails the Buffs' 4x100 unit. In the 4x800 relay, Hays is favored (8:13.16), but Dodge City (8:21.86), Liberal (8:21.91) and Great Bend (8:22.43) are not far behind.
Dusty Tempel's 21-05 in the long jump is two inches shy of leader Chase Eatmon of Liberal's 21-07. He is also ranked second in the 100-meters (11.8) while twin Greyson is ranked second in the 200-meters (22.80). Aaron Vasquez enters the meet with the top pole vault in the league at 14-06, which also places him with the second highest vault in Class 6A.
Dodge City's Oscar Carmona is among the fastest 1,600-meter runners, clocking a 4:22.80 earlier this year.
"We'll try to load up more in some of the individual events to score points where we typically might not since it is a small meet," Smith said. "We'll have Jonathan (DuVall) and Taryn (Tempel) probably in an extra individual event and not run one of the relays they would typically run. I've told the kids that we've had a good year, but let's go finish it strong and compete as hard as we can. That's what we've gotten from this group. They always go and give it their best shot."