Something evidently has happened to transpose the personality of Mother Nature.
Tuesday became the third consecutive day for most of the area high school track teams to compete in what many called near ideal weather conditions.
After a mostly miserable April, with cold, wind and utterly miserable weather, the last three major meet days, going eight days in arrears, have been nothing short of perfection.
This time, it was Buffalo Stadium and the Garden City/Mike Smith Invitational that provided the venue for nine schools to compete in a varsity/junior varsity marathon meet.
Garden City captured both girls and boys team titles, respectively, with 128 and 139 points, but Holcomb, Scott City and Deerfield, the smallest school to have entries, all had their highlight moments in the varsity portion of the meet.
Raegan Linenberger equaled her career best mark in the high jump, clearing 5-06, and just barely missing on two of her three attempts at 5-07.
The Buffs got a double-gold performance from junior Taylor Savolt, those coming in the long jump, where she got her season best leap of 17-04, and then running a 47.65 in the 300-meter hurdles — well off her season low of 46.30, but in a race that finished into the teeth of a 10-15mph wind.
Felicity Rodriguez was the only other GCHS girl to post a win, capturing the 100 meters in 13.22.
On the boys side, Garden City recorded several firsts, among them Garret Doll in the 1,600 meters (4:35.57), Javier Cervantes in the 3,200 meters (10:23.80), Alex Nickell in the 110-meter hurdles (15.58), Jaycob Vargas in the pole vault (14-00) and Demarcus Elliott in the shot put, where he set a personal record with a heave of 52-08, two inches farther than his Class 6A state winning mark in 2017.
Holcomb’s 4x100-meter relay team of Devin Mader, Garrett Williams, Peyton Leonard and Isaiah Armstrong eclipsed the Longhorn school record by a mere .two-hundredths of a second in winning the event in a speedy 43.28 seconds. The previous mark was set in 2001 by Kale Katt, Luke Staab, Derek Schwindt and Andy Smith, and the time also sits the Holcomb group at 12th fastest in Kansas for all classes this spring.
It was the second school mark in eight days for Armstrong, a sophomore, who set the 400-meter mark of 49.07 at the Holcomb Invite a week ago Monday. But he ran into a speedy Dusty Torres of Liberal in the race Tuesday, running a 50.67 while Torres ran the third fastest time in Kansas at 48.89.
Highlight for the day for the Scott City boys came in the meet’s final event, the 4x400-meter relay, where the Beavers’ contingent of Adrian Ruelas, Wyatt Hayes, Kaden Wren and Jarret Jurgens ran a blistering 3:25.65, the sixth fastest time in Kansas for all classes and the top mark in Class 3A.
“It was the best thing that we did all day,” said Scott City coach Jim Turner on the way out of the stadium. “It’s good to get some our kids back who have been nursing injuries.”
The Beavers, though, were without standout pole vaulter/high jumper and hurdler Marshall Faurot, who sat out the meet with an injury that Turner hopes will respond quickly in time for Friday’s next meet at the Russell Relays.
The meet provided the season debut in the 300-meter hurdles for Holcomb’s Carter Blackburn, the defending Class 4A state champion, who has been sidelined for much of the season with an injury. Blackburn didn’t win his specialty, finishing just behind Liberal’s Josh Arafol, who edged the Longhorn 41.63 to 41.65 seconds.
“It felt good to run the hurdles and get the mental aspect out of my way,” Blackburn said. “The wind wasn’t too bad, and I know I’ll get better the rest of the season.”
A far from picture-perfect race, Blackburn nearly toppled over when he hit the middle hurdle on the curve, but regained his stride and nearly caught Arafol at the finish line.
“For one practice day in the event all season, it’s a good feeling,” Blackburn said. “Good to get the rust out.”
Deerfield’s Rodriguez had a solid day while competing against the likes of 6A Garden City and Dodge City and 5A Liberal as well as mostly 4A and 3A schools. But the Spartan senior didn’t seem to mind.
“I liked it a lot and I competed against Raegan (Garden’s Linenberger) in the high jump at the K.T. Woodman (Wichita State Univ. in early April),” Rodriguez said. “It feels good to get to my season best of 5-04, and now I can focus on going higher. That felt good, but I know I can do better.”
For Linenberger, equaling her personal best, which came in the Class 6A state meet a year ago, the day provided her a much-needed boost of confidence.
“This is a good place to be right now,” said the GCHS senior. “I’ve tried 5-07 a couple of times, and now that I’ve got 5-06 I know I can’t let it get inside my head.”
And she welcomed the tough competition from her Class 1A competitor in Rodriguez.
“It’s good because a lot of the meets, most of the girls go out at 5-00 or 5-02, so it’s good to keep the focus,” Linenberger said.
Scott City’s lone win in the girls division came from sophomore Madison Shapland, where she equaled her personal and season best mark of 10-00 in the pole vault, just edging out Garden City’s Annie Gerber, who was unable to clear the same height.
“I’ve got a few things yet to figure out, but now I can focus on 10-06,” Shapland said. “I’ve gotten the inversion down on the vault, now I need to work on turning. For me that’s been the toughest part of learn.”
Shapland, who began vaulting in the seventh grade, says she like the event which fits a bit of her daredevil personality.
“I really like this kind of stuff,” she said in referring to the vault in which you launch yourself up into the air, upside down and then turn and fall into the pit. “The adrenaline is fun and we’ll just see what happens.”
Garden City captured its lone relay in the boys 4x800-meters with a time of 8:16.35, edging Scott City by 1.09 seconds. Doll, Nathaniel Hubbard, Cervantes and Kameron Wildeman were the four runners for the Buffs.
For GCHS first-year track coach Brian Hill, the meet served many purposes for his teams, which also recognized the many seniors who have been part of the program for the past four years.
“It was good to see the seniors do such a good job of competing today,” Hill said. “I’ve seen some good times and distances today, and considering that it’s our third meet in eight days, I thought the kids did a great job.”
Hill cited the marks by Linenberger and Elliott, who, for the first time in his career, surpassed 52-00 on all three of his throws.
“They don’t get to compete much at home, so it’s great to see them do so well,” Hill said of his squad. “It just shows the kind of leadership that we have from our seniors.”
Next up will be a wide range of meets for area schools on Friday.
Garden heads to the Derby Invitational, Scott City to the Russell Relays, Holcomb to the Colby Invitational, Dighton hosts its own meet while South Gray and Moscow will compete at the Bucklin Invitational.
The big area meet Friday will be the Kearny County Relays at Lakin, where Cimarron, Elkhart, Lakin, Meade, Southwestern Heights, Stanton County, Sublette, Syracuse, Wichita County, Ulysses and Hugoton will compete along with the host Broncs.