By BRETT MARSHALL
For the first time in the young 2012 track season, Garden City High School freshman distance runner Katy Doll didn't have to run the 1,600-meters on the heels of competing in the 4x800-meter relay.
Thursday evening, at the Shocker Pre-State Challenge at Wichita State University's Cessna Stadium, Doll, a freshman for the Lady Buffs blazed to a personal best 5:39.21 to capture the Class 4-5-6A 1,600-meters and earn her first individual gold medal as a high schooler.
"I couldn't have done it without all the other girls who I practice with and who push me," Doll said in a telephone interview with The Telegram afterward. "This feels pretty good. The others really push me and it helps to have that kind of competition in practice."
Doll, the younger sister of sophomore Kayla (an 800-meter runner who was to compete today), had to wait for a few moments to see the final results as the event was run in two heats. Hesston's Mikala Heddin had won the other heat in a time of 5:40.51.
Lady Buffs' teammate Chelsea Jackson finished fourth in 5:45.88 while Ulysses' Chisholm Branscum took third with a time of 5:45.03.
"I usually just try to hang with Chelsea but I felt really good tonight and just decided to go for it," Doll said.
Jackson had led the event through most of the first 800-meters before Doll moved into the lead. As she moved into the middle of the third lap, Doll then had to contend with Wichita Bishop Carroll's Christian McCaulley. McCaulley challenged Doll on the backstretch of the final 400 meters, once closing to within a couple of meters. But Doll then found another gear and pulled away over the final 200 meters.
"I started worrying a little bit when I felt her getting close," Doll said. "I just tried to tell myself to push through. It was by far the best I've felt. Most of the time I'm just a little tired and just try to finish, but this time I really went for it."
Head coach Mike Smith was happy for his rookie runner.
"She's usually not able to run that event rested, so this was really good for her," Smith said of Doll's lone event of the evening.
With Doll joining the standout group of sophomore girls distance runners, the Lady Buffs were to showcase their 4x400 and 4x800-meter relay teams today. In addition, the Buffs had plenty of field event and other track competitors scheduled for the final day of the high school portion of the Woodman Invitational.
In other Thursday events for GCHS, senior Asa Gottsponer competed in the 5-event heptathlon (110-meter hurdles, long jump, shot put, high jump and 1,500-meters). He finished seventh in the event, finishing with 2,361 points. Points are awarded based on a set standard of times, distances and heights in each event.
Ulysses' Israel Mendoza took fourth in the 1,600- and 3,200-meters of Class 4-6A with times of 4:45.15 and 10:35.16.
Today's schedule was to have begun at 10 a.m. with a full slate of field events and track races.
Ulysses' Kaylea Britton, one of the top shot putters discus throwers in Class 4A, was competing today in her two specialties. The Tigers' Josh Jarnagin and the Buffaloes' Jonathan Duvall were to battle it out in the 110- and 300-meter hurdle races in the Elite division. Tate Annis of Ulysses was slated to compete in the long jump Elite group. Hugoton's Nicole Kinser, the two-time 4A state triple jump champion, was to compete in the long jump and triple jump elite division.
The Lady Buffs had Chinasa Ekweariri in the Elite 100- and 200-meter dashes; Kayla Doll in the 800-meters; and their three relay teams (4x100, 4x400, 4x800). Seth Alexander was competing for the boys in the Elite shot put division.
GCHS coach Mike Smith had a full slate of entries in most of the Class 4-5-6A division events for today's competition while Ulysses and Hugoton also had other entrants.