GCHS, Miller claim team, individual runner-up places at 6A state XC.
By BRETT MARSHALL
LAWRENCE — Alex Miller ran two seconds faster than she did in 2012 when she finished second individually at the Class 6A state cross country meet, and still finished runner-up here on Saturday at Rim Rock Farm.
Kayla Doll improved her placing by nine spots and ran nearly an identical time to her 2012 mark when she helped Garden City High School's girls to a team runner-up finish to Olathe East. Katy Doll also stepped up her performance, going from 31st to 19th, thus earning the third individual medal for the team.
Senior Chelsea Jackson kept pace with her 28th place finish to put the Lady Buffs in position to lower their team score by 13 points to 87, which would have been good enough to win the 2012 team trophy.
But all of those performances weren't enough to bring home the championship trophy that had been the one defining goal of the group throughout the 2013 season.
Instead, the team title went to Lawrence-Free State, which put on something akin to a superhuman performance — the Lady Firebirds put three runners in the top five en route to compiling just 53 points to keep the Lady Buffs in the runner-up spot once again, this time by 34 points. The Lady Buffs were only 11 points behind (89 to 100) when taking second to Olathe East last year. This time, the 87 points was a solid second, 19 points ahead of third-place Olathe East, which won a tiebreaker with Shawnee Mission West on the basis of its sixth runner's finish.
On the boys' side, freshman Erik Chaparro earned an individual medal with a 19th place finish, while the Buffs' boys placed ninth among 12 teams with 213 points.
The Lady Buffs left little doubt that they had run as well as they could.
"I think that what coach (Krista Linenberger) has told us, that we all p.r.'d (personal record) or came close from last year," Miller said after the race. "I'm proud of the way we ran. We went out and competed. Lawrence-Free State has a great team, but I couldn't be prouder of this group of girls."
Last year, Miller climbed her way from about the 30th position halfway through the 4-kilometer race to squeeze in at second. This time, she pulled up from about 12th place at the race's mid-point, and was a solid second in 15:08.41, while freshman Emily Venters led Free State's impressive showing with a 14:58.32 time. Manhattan's Alana Schroeder, who Miller had beaten by 0.6 of a second last year, was a distant third in 15:20.03.
"I think we went out a lot stronger and didn't sit back like we did last year," Miller said. "I thought we kept picking it up more, and we gave it all we could and then some."
Senior Kayla Doll moved up to 12th and earned an individual medal in the process with a time of 15:54.06, while her younger sister, Katy, also medaled with a 19th-place finish in a time of 16:08.54.
"I don't think there were any real big surprises," Kayla Doll said. "We knew what to expect. We knew they'd take off pretty fast, and we kind of had to run smart. There was a lot of adrenaline in that first mile. I think we did a decent job with that."
Kayla Doll did her best to put the day in perspective.
"The outcome didn't come out like we'd hoped," Kayla said. "But looking at last year vs. this year, we had three in the top 20 while we had only one last year. It's a step up for our team and will be good for these girls who will be back. I'm so proud of Katy. She's our riser — she rises to the occasion. She continues to show up when it matters most. I told her that with hard work and dedication that she can make a run for it (title) next year."
The younger Doll also was happy with her performance, as well as her teammates.
"It's a really good feeling to make the top 20," Katy Doll said. "Getting that medal was what I was working toward. I know we were looking for the team (title), but not very many teams can go back-to-back runnerup. It shows that we worked hard and did everything we could and finished well."
Linenberger was philosophical when talking about the uphill battle it was against Free State, which competed on its home course.
"Our girls ran great, and it would have taken some really awesome stuff from our fifth," Linenberger said. "Free State is just tough right now and put them on their home course. I'm certainly not ashamed of second place. We've brought home more hardware than at any time in the school's history. That shows you right there that they ran great. I know they had their heart set on first, but I knew it would be pretty tough. I don't know what they could have done different."
Senior Chelsea Jackson's 28th place came in a time of 16:21.99, while freshman Hannah Schultz, with a time of 16:59.37, rounded out the team's scoring runners in 59th place. Freshman Aileen Gurrola was 66th in 17:14.89 and senior Maria Rodriguez was 87th (17:56.06).
For the youthful boys team, it was an experience to build on, too.
Chaparro ran a 16:41.76 to earn his top-20 medal, while freshman Marcus Tula placed 29th with a time of 16:59.43. Other finishers for the Buffs were Ray Urbina (67th, 17:45.55), David Acosta-Hernandez (97th, 18:44.83), Ivan Perez (98th, 18:50.55) and Josh Kreger (102nd, 19:12.69).
"I'm really exhausted, but it feels great," Chaparro said after learning of his medal finish. "I just left everything out there. Everybody was battling for each place. I just tried to see who I could catch next. It's exciting. Our team is still young, and we'll be looking for a top three the next time."
For the veteran coach Linenberger, the finish to the season capped off a superb 2013 season in which both boys and girls won the regional meet, and were second and first in the league.
"I think the future really looks good for both the boys and girls," Linenberger said. "We just need to get the kids returning to get the other kids out running more in the summer. This group have the biggest hearts of anybody I know. When you have leaders like that, you can't go wrong."