Lady Buffs come up just short in trophy chase at state track

5/31/2014

By BRETT MARSHALL

By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

WICHITA — Perhaps the performances and finishes on Saturday at the 2014 Kansas State Track and Field Championships for the Garden City Lady Buffaloes just felt like deja vu.

Maybe because that's just what it was.

At the end of the day, in the meet's final event — the 4x400-meter relay —the Lady Buffs needed to finish no worse than two spots behind Lawrence High to capture a third-place team trophy and come home with the precious hardware.

Instead, with Lawrence High blistering the field with a near-record 3:54.19, the Lady Buffs finished fourth in 4:04.91, earning five points to the Lady Lions' 10.

That five-point swing resulted in a heartbreaking half-point loss for the trophy, 47.0 to 46.5.

Lawrence High's time was the third fastest in state history. It makes it tough when you're setting personal bests and the competition is among the fastest in history. And nobody knew it better than the Lady Buffs.

In essence, it reflected not only the day, but also the two days as the Lady Buffs kept coming up short, time after time, despite posting numerous personal bests in both individual and relay events.

"It did not feel as good as I thought, but then I looked up and saw Taylor (Linenberger, second leg of the 4x400) and I just wanted to finish strong," Taryn Tempel, the leadoff runner for the Buffs, said afterward. "We gave it our best. That's all you can do."

It was a teary-eyed group that headed to the medal stand for their fourth-place recognition, but there was no masking the heartbreak of this one. Collectively, the team has been what this group has been all about, and collectively this one hurt.

"We gave what we had in tank," an exhausted Kayla Doll said afterward, knowing that her 800 in the 4x800, the open 1,600 (fourth-place), the open 800 (third) and the relay had taken its toll. "The competition was incredibly tough. It's a long couple of days. It hasn't all sunk in and probably won't for a while. My tank's on empty now."

So on a day when the 4x800 ran their fastest time ever (9:32.63), which was 2.78 seconds faster than their 2013 state championship time in the, and with Kayla Doll and Alex Miller going fourth-fifth in the 1,600-meters, then a third-place medal by Doll in the 800 (personal best 2:18.91), it all added up the same — close, yes, oh so close, but not quite enough.

The defending state relay champs clipped nearly three seconds off their 2013 winning time, but it wasn't enough to topple Olathe East's blistering time of 9:24.55 while running a new school record of 9:32.63.

And while the Lady Buffs' time wasn't enough to take gold, their mark was the 17th all-time fastest 4x800 in 43 years. The only problem, however, was Olathe East's was the fifth fastest time in state history. 

But that didn't crush the Lady Buffs' group of Alex Miller, Katy Doll, Aileen Gurrola and Kayla Doll.

"East's just got three really strong runners who are just tough," said Miller, who ran leadoff for the Lady Buffs in 2:20.86, her best split in two years. "We gave it our all. Ran faster than we ever have, so I'm happy for that."

Junior Katy Doll, who ran the second leg in 2:25.02, also felt good about the team's performance.

"I'm just so glad we ran that well," she said. "We've been waiting for that kind of time all year. It felt really good."

For Gurrola, a freshman, it was a great way to cap off her first year of high school competition.

"I love my teammates and am just so happy to have a chance to run with these girls," said Gurrola, whose split was 2:26.12. "They're like my second family."

For senior Kayla Doll, whose anchor leg split was 2:20.27, the runner-up finish was secondary to the fact they ran such a fast time.

"I tried to close the gap, but it was just too much," Kayla said of the 30-meter deficit she inherited. "I really didn't know what to expect. We hadn't seen them all year, but we knew they were good. I told the girls all we gotta do was go out and compete, do what we can do. The time is a pleasant surprise. It's always good to end on a good note."

Two and a half hours after the relay, Kayla Doll and Miller, had a second similar experience in the 1,600-meters as Doll ran a personal best of 5:05.90 (previously 5:09.28) to finish fourth, as Free State's Bailey Sullivan and Emily Venters, who have been a thorn in the Lady Buffs' side all year in cross country and on the track, ran 1-2 with times of 4:59.43 and 5:03.84. Manhattan's Alaina Schroeder took fourth in 5:04.37.

Miller's fifth-place time of 5:14.38 was off her season best, but she came from seventh place in the final 400 meters to overtake Loretta Achoki of Olathe North (5:15.01) and Claire Sanner of Free State (5:15.31).

"I'm really happy with the 1,600," Kayla Doll said. "Once I got under 5:10 a couple of weeks ago, I just wanted to see how much lower I could go. At the beginning of the year, I had no idea how I'd do. The real thing about the 1,600 (her first year in the event), was college coaches were asking me about my mile time and I told them I didn't have one. So they encouraged me to run one, and that's what I did at the KU indoor (5:22). That got me thinking that the event might be good and shed new light on the race for me."

At the halfway point of the 1,600, Doll was running side by side with the three eventual top finishers, and so she felt she was in a perfect spot.

"At some point, they just kicked it in a little more (final lap) and I didn't have enough to stay with them," said Doll. "I'm pleased with my time, though. Nothing to be ashamed of. They're just great runners."

For Doll, the 800 was also the epitome of almost, but not quite.

She was right on the shoulders of eventual champion Emily Lathrop (2:16.91) of Olathe East and runner-up Sullivan of Free State (2:17.80) after the opening 400 (1:06.68/1:06.50/1:07.10), and was positioned just on the outside of the two rivals. 

"I knew I needed to get out fast, but they even went out faster," Doll said. "I got to that second lap and thought about passing them, but I didn't want to go too far outside. I was happy with where I was. I went back and forth on what to do — whether to surge or not. I hoped to catch them, but they just had a little more. It's a blessing to run that fast and I'm sure I wouldn't have done that without having that kind of competition."

In her final prep individual event (she and Miller are headed to Kansas State to compete next fall), Doll said she had no regrets.

"I'm usually the stress case at the state, but this year I think I've matured and I felt more relaxed than years past," she said. 

Junior Kaylee Kipp placed fourth in the shot put with a toss of 38-07, well off her 2013 mark when she placed third while a sophomore at Manhattan High School.

The drop in place, and the shorter toss, left Kipp pondering the possibilities, both for Saturday and then had her looking ahead to 2015.

"I didn't do what I can do, and what I wanted to do," said a disappointed Kipp. "I didn't do well in the discus yesterday (Friday) either. Last year (at Manhattan), I had others who were better than me on my team, and I didn't feel the pressure. This year, I think I just let it (pressure) get to me. Next year, I've just got to work harder, do what I need to do to improve."

Kipp said there were parts of her technique that needed to improve.

"In the shot, I need to stay back, stay low and then explode," she said. "In the discus, there's so many other things to think about. I was throwing well in practice this week, that's what makes this disappointing. Next year at Garden City will be a better year."

Katy Doll had to make the quick transition from running her split on the 4x8 over to the high jump pit. She cleared everything up to and including 5-0 before the missed all three attempts at 5-02, which had been her season best mark. On her third and final try, she was over, but just clipped the bar with her calf. That resulted in an eighth-place tie for the junior.

"I was just inconsistent today, not like I had done earlier in the season," Katy said. "Considering this was my first year, I'm happy to get a medal, but know I can do better next year. I like it (event) a lot. It was frustrating not to get my personal record. The biggest problem for me this year was grasping the concept of the speed and transferring that into the cut and then jump. I just couldn't get the concept. But I'm going to work on getting higher and then shoot for my best next year."

The near-miss for a team trophy and all the individual races was a culmination of a year-long tug-of-war with teams from northeast Kansas — Free State and Lawrence High, and Olathe East. 

Last October, the Lady Buffs ran their best cross country race in two years, and it wasn't enough to overtake a talented Lawrence Free State Firebird team. And Miller was an individual runner-up to Venters in the 6A state cross country meet.

Still, the group of seniors perhaps completed their careers as the most accomplished group of cross country and track performers in GCHS history.

The GCHS boys had a limited entry list for Saturday, with Jesus Reyes running a 2:02.25 in the 800 to place 11th among 16 runners. It took a 1:59.89 to medal in the top eight. Reyes, a sophomore, ran with underclassmen teammates Conner Schultz (junior), and freshmen Erik Chaparro and Marcus Tula in the 4x800-meter relay, clocking an 8:30.00 to take 14th in the 16-team field. Nick Jauche's eighth-place pole vault on Friday was the lone point for the Buffs after a fourth-place team finish in 2013.

For more stories on the state track meet, and complete results, read Monday's Telegram or go to www.gctelegram.com on Monday morning.

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