After what he called a sluggish start, the Garden City High School boys and girls track teams finished with a flourish on Friday at the Hutchinson Invitational.
That was the synopsis for Buffs' track coach Brian Hill.
The meet, which featured many of the top track and field athletes in all of Kansas, provided the Buffs with a preview of the Class 6A regionals in later May, as well as the Western Athletic Conference meet in Dodge City the second week of May. Perhaps it also gave some insight as to what the Buffs will encounter at the state track meet on Memorial weekend the last week of May.
Highlighting the meet for the Buffs were a number of first-place finishes, with Garret Doll claiming the 800 meters in 2:02.48, and then finishing a strong second in the 1,600 meters in a season-best time of 4:30.44.
Jaycob Vargas claimed the boys pole vault by clearing 14 feet, and Demarcus Elliott had his season best shot put with a throw of 51-11.50 on his final attempt of the day.
Also coming up with a big win was the Buffs’ 4x800-meter relay team of Javyn Contreras, Ethan Fisher, Mario Bustillos and Javier Cervantes, who clocked an 8:30.42 to take the gold medal.
On the girls side of things, it was the usual top stars that shined.
Taylor Savolt won the 300-meter hurdles in a sterling finish of 46.30 seconds, coming from behind in the final 20 meters to claim the victory. She finished second in the long jump at 16-11.25.
Annie Gerber equaled her season best of 10-00, set earlier in the week at Holcomb, to win the pole vault. Seconds were captured by Raegan Linenberger in the high jump (5-04), freshman Keyhana Turner in the javelin (106-03) and the 4x400-meter relay team of Megan Powers, Felicity Rodriguez, Linenberger and Savolt.
Hill said Savolt’s anchor leg time for her 400 was right at 60 seconds.
"We left a lot of points out there, especially in the field events where we didn’t get off to a very good start at the beginning of the day," Hill said. "We just didn’t perform as well as we would have liked in that part of the meet."
Doll, while not running his fastest 800, did top a strong field, and then came from behind in the 1,600 to go from fourth to second in the final 400 meters, beating WAC rival Kerby Depenbusch of Great Bend in the process.
"He ran a heckuva race and showed a lot of guts in the final 400," Hill said of Doll.
Hill also had praise for Savolt, who trailed Hutchinson senior Janae Wren coming down the final few hurdles, only to rally and capture the victory.
"With two hurdles left, she was about four meters behind, but she beat the Hutch girl to the tape (46.30 to 46.61)," Hill said. "She’s done a great job of getting her steps down in this race."
Hill, who had been the throwing coach for the past few seasons before becoming the head coach this year, said Elliott’s dramatic throw came on his final attempt.
"He’s the cardiac kid," Hill said of Elliott. "All four of the same kids who represented our regional at state were in the field today, so he beat some of his best competition. I was happy to see him pop that one. It will give him more confidence as we head into May."
Next up for the Buffs will be the GCHS Invitational on Tuesday at Buffalo Stadium.
The javelin and pole vault events will begin the meet at 12:15 p.m., followed by the remaining field events beginning at 1 o’clock. The varsity 1,600-meters will be contested at 2:30 p.m. At 4 p.m., the running events will begin, with junior varsity running ahead of varsity.
Participating teams, in addition to Garden City, include Dodge City, Liberal, Colby, Ulysses, Scott City, Holcomb and Goodland.
The Garden City Buffalo golf team competed in the prestigious Hutchinson Invitational on Friday, but didn't have the full varsity roster when they played Carey Park Golf Course.
Head coach Jacob Waller decided to give some fresh faces a chance to shine on Friday, as two usual starters and three underclassmen took 26th place in Hutchinson.
“It was a great day to see up and coming golfers get valuable experience,” Waller said. “I wanted to get some of those younger guys some experience in a big tournament."
“We have a unique situation,” said Waller as for a reason for the change. “We have three guys who go back and forth, and I wanted to give them a chance to have them try and compete for that fourth and fifth spot on the team.”
Garden City’s lowest scorer was junior Tyler Morren, who shot an 81, which placed him in 59th place.
“Not a great team score, but it really wasn't why we went up there,” said Waller of his team’s finish on Friday. “I generally schedule nine varsity tournaments, but can only play in eight and I pick a tournament a season where I only send JV to get some experience.”
Although not the usual strategy for some, Waller saw some immediate positive impacts for his younger golfers.
Waller said of his young players, “I did see them grow during the tournament. Some of them would hit some rough patches and fought through it. They didn't sulk on it, and it was good to see them grow so quickly.”
The Buffaloes have the weekend to rest as they will travel to Great Bend on Monday. Tee time is scheduled for Monday at 3 p.m. They will remain on the road for a Tuesday Hesston Invitational.