By BRETT MARSHALL
It came as no surprise that the Garden City Lady Buffaloes' ran away with their third consecutive Western Athletic Conference cross country title on Thursday at Lake Barton.
But it was certainly a mild surprise, at least, when the Buffs' boys squad produced its best effort of the 2013 season, claiming second place with 48 points behind favored Liberal's 38.
"Man, oh man, it was something to watch the boys today," an obviously elated GCHS coach Krista Linenberger said. "To be as close as we could be. We were closer than I thought, but they ran like crazy. They were feeling good, looking good."
On the girls side, as expected, the Lady Buffs dominated as seniors Alex Miller, Chelsea Jackson and Kayla Doll, along with junior Katy Doll, swept the top four spots as they finished with 21 points to easily out-pace Dodge City's 66 points.
"I really don't know what to say, how to say it, as to how good the girls ran," Linenberger said of her Lady Buffs. "They continue to perform at a high level."
Miller's repeat individual title came with a time of 15:20 over the 4-kilometer layout, while Jackson's time was close back at 15:28. Kayla Doll came in at 15:47 and Katy Doll was timed in 16:06. Freshman Hannah Schultz continued her strong improvement by running in 11th for the final scoring place for the Lady Buffs in a time of 16:41. Maria Rodriguez was 15th in 17:20. Earning the team's final seventh spot for next week's Class 6A regional in Wichita was freshman Aileen Gurrola, who claimed the top spot in the junior varsity portion of the event. Linenberger had three runners compete in that for the final varsity slot, and Gurrola came away with the best time.
"We've still got to find our fifth runner to move up and close the gap on the top four," Linenberger said. "Hannah is certainly improving each week for us. I don't know how critical it will be next week (regionals), but I know it's a big thing for us to work on for state."
It was just more than a month ago that the team ran on the same course in the season-opening meet. Comparative times from that race were Miller (16:01), Jackson (16:31), Kayla Doll (16:02), Katy Doll (16:41) and Rodriguez (17:22). Schultz ran on the JV team that day.
And while the girls celebrated a big win, it was the boys who had cause to enjoy the fruits of their hard work.
Freshmen Marcus Tula and Erik Chaparro once again were the top finishers for the Buffs, claiming second and third with times of 16:38 and 16:42 over the 5-kilometer layout. Ray Urbina was seventh in 17:25 and Jesus Reyes was 10th in 17:43. The Buffs' fifth and final counting time came from Juan Gomez in 26th with a time of 18:27. Josh Kreger rounded out the performance in 32nd in a time of 19:14.
"For those kids to have placed where they did, they just went out after it," Linenberger said of the boys squad. "They really ran with the idea they would win. I thought maybe we could pull off a top three. But they just did a great job. A great effort."
The teams will have nine days until they compete at the 6A Regional at the Wichita Cessna Activity Center. The top three teams earn spots in the Nov. 2 state meet at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence. That's where the girls, last year's state runner-up, hope to make a dash at the school's first state title in the sport.