By BRETT MARSHALL
The Lady Buffs were expected to dominate the Class 6A regional at the Wichita Cessna Activity Center course, and they did, with seniors Alex Miller, Kayla Doll and Chelsea Jackson running 1-2-3 to help the team to a 23-point effort, easily outdistancing Wichita East's 66 points.
But the big surprise was the Buffs' boys squad.
With no returning varsity experience, the Buffs, paced by freshmen Erik Chaparro and Marcus Tula's second and third-place performances, finished with 69 points to edge Wichita Southeast's runner-up team with 73 points.
"Gosh, the boys performance just made the day pretty exciting for everyone," an elated GCHS coach Krista Linenberger said. "With everything that happened, it is even more amazing how well the boys ran."
Linenberger said she believes it is the first time in school history that both girls and boys teams won a regional, thus qualifying all 14 runners for the upcoming state meet in Lawrence on Saturday at Rim Rock Farm.
Linenberger said the boys squad was already without senior Drew Cady, who was nursing an injury, and then the team's normal fifth runner missed the bus in Garden City. Thus, the boys relied on their normal sixth and seventh runners (Ivan Perez and Josh Kreger) to figure in for the fifth counting time.
Perez came through with his best time of the season (18:47.11) and a 39th-place finish while Chaparro (16:40.78) and Tula (16:49.42) led the way over the 5-kilometer layout. Sophomore Jesus Reyes and junior Ray Urbina ran back-to-back in 12th and 13th places with times of 17:29.68 and 17:30.02. Kreger finished in 18:59.22.
On the girls side, the Lady Buffs have now put themselves in position for the quest that began just after they finished second in the Class 6A state meet in 2012. With all five returning runners, the Lady Buffs have performed at a high level all season.
Miller set the pace for the girls on Saturday with a time of 15:02.96 over the 4-kilometer course while Doll and Jackson were not far behind with times of 15:12.61 and 15:29.98. Junior Katy Doll was fifth in a time of 15:42.13 while senior Maria Rodriguez rounded out the scoring runners for the Buffs with a 12th place finish and a time of 16:35.10. Freshmen Aileen Gurrola (16:51.16) and Hannah Schultz (17:37.25) had non-counting finishes of 15th and 28th.
The Lady Buffs, who had entered the four-team sub-state as the top seed, lost in the title match to the Lady Grizzlies 25-22, 26-24 after having won their semifinal match over Wichita North in convincing fashion 25-9, 25-13.
"I thought the girls played pretty well," said first-year coach Shandra Sanders, who saw her team finish with a 25-12 record.
With just five points separating the teams over the two sets, there was little to differentiate how close the teams were.
"I'm not sure disappointed is the right word, more like heartbreaking," Sanders said. "It was a heckuva fight. I don't think we held anything back. They left everything out on the floor."
, and that's all you can ask of your players."
It was the third consecutive year for the Lady Buffs to miss qualifying for the state tournament with an exit in the sub-state championship. In 2011, the Buffs lost to the same Northwest squad in Dodge City and then lost in Garden City to Maize High a year ago.
"We did have a good season, and I'm proud of what the girls accomplished," Sanders said. "They improved so much from the start of the season."