Just a little more than five years ago, I returned to western Kansas to begin my job as sports editor of The Telegram.
For the first two school seasons, I traveled here and there reporting mostly about the 18 other area communities in our coverage area.
Safe to say, I had a distant understanding from my staff about how things were going at Garden City High School, at least in the arena of sports.
Then, in February of 2010, longtime GCHS coach and athletic director Bill Weatherly tendered his resignation to leave for his roots in Oklahoma.
Taking over the reins of the Buffs' sports programs was former GCHS standout wrestler Martin Segovia.
A homegrown product of the Buffs, Segovia learned his sports trade from the legendary wrestling coach Rocky Welton and from the football guru who guided the Buffs to their lone state championship — Dave Meadows.
Suffice it to say, Segovia had taken the best of both coaching worlds, along with a multitude of other coaches who mentored him.
As Segovia hits the 40-year-old decade, he can look back on his first three years and the start of his fourth, with plenty of optimism and a lot of confidence that things are on the uptick for the Buffs' sports teams.
If you don't believe me, just look at the 2013 fall sports season, which has just the Buffs' football team remaining to finish out its schedule with a berth in the Class 6A playoffs on Friday at Wichita Northwest.
The football team finished the regular season with a 6-3 record, 3-1 in the Western Athletic Conference and sharing the league title with Hays, a team the Buffs demolished 35-0 in just one half of a game that was called due to lightning. They just brought the Hatchet back to Garden City with a resounding 41-20 win over Dodge City on Friday night. They knocked off powerhouse and seven-time state champion Hutchinson, 35-24, to earn their way into the postseason.
But that's just one of the many successes of this fall for GCHS sports.
Considering the following accomplishments:
Volleyball won the WAC for the third consecutive year and reached the Class 6A sub-state championship game for the third straight season.
Girls golf won WAC for the fifth straight year, finished third at the 6A state tournament a couple of weeks ago and had senior Abbi Shaddix finish second individually.
The girls tennis team placed second to Great Bend in the WAC and sent three girls to the state tournament, one in singles and one doubles team.
GCHS' boys soccer team went 13-5-0 and repeated as WAC champions. They advanced to the second round of the 6A playoffs before a heartbreaking 1-0 loss at rival Dodge City late last week.
Last, but certainly not least, is cross country.
The Lady Buffs established themselves as one of the premier programs in Kansas over the past three seasons and culminated that with its second straight 6A runner-up team finish while senior Alex Miller duplicated her individual runner-up finish on Saturday at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence. Three of the Lady Buffs earned individual medals for top 20 finishes. Add in freshman Erik Chaparro on the boys side, who was 19th and just one of two first-year runners to place in the top 20, and you have the makings of a highly successful program. The boys squad, while placing ninth, returns virtually the entire varsity roster intact for next year.
What does it all mean?
For starters, it demonstrates that the GCHS sports programs are solid on all fronts. Exceptional coaches giving strong guidance and direction to the athletes. Athletes who are motivated and focused to represent their school and their community to the best of their ability. It means that lessons of learning how to compete, not only on the sports playing field, but also in the classroom.
Across the board, GCHS sports is thriving.
The proof of that also comes in the WAC's year-long State Farm Insurance Champions Cup competition among the five league schools. After finishing a dismal last in 2011, the Buffs turned things around and have captured the last two. That competition emcompasses 20 varsity girls and boys sports. To win it, you've got to be good in most everything.
And through the fall sports, which comprised seven of those sports, the Buffs had compiled 74 points — four league titles, a tie for another crown and a pair of runner-up finishes. Nothing lower than second.
Now that's something to stampede about, don't you think?
There are many people that one could point to for the success of the GCHS program, but as with everything in organizations and programs, it all starts at the top.
In this case, the top starts with Segovia. His hires for coaches have paid dividends.
He raised the bar, and the coaches and athletes have responded. It's pretty exciting stuff and a great time to be a Buffs' fan.
Sports Editor Brett Marshall can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org