WICHITA — If one could only surmise the unexpected in athletics.
How would you explain this?
Eight days ago, the Garden City High School boys ran a mundane 8:40.42 to earn their trip to the state track meet.
Nobody, but nobody, could have predicted what happened Saturday. Las Vegas odds? Hardly. Lottery ticket? A better chance to win.
The Buffaloes' 4x800-meter boys relay team defied the odds and pulled off one of the most surprising wins Saturday on the final day of the 2018 state track meet at Cessna Stadium.
They did it by setting a school record of 8:03.31, beating the old mark by nearly two seconds, a record set more than a decade ago — and they did it in style, with seniors Javier Cervantes and anchor Kameron Wildeman running perhaps their best splits ever to bring the gold medal home by nearly four seconds over Olathe East.
It was one of several memorable moments for the Buffs, but nothing could have anticipated the relay group.
Junior Taylor Savolt, on the other hand, was a big favorite, and finally realized her dream in the 300-meter hurdles, grabbing her gold medal with a school record best 45.05 to outduel Junction City’s Keiana Newman, who was second at 45.40 as Savolt caught her at the last hurdle and then sped to the finish line just barely ahead.
The boys' relay and Savolt’s win were the Saturday highlights, but there were plenty of other strong performances for the Buffs.
Comprised of Javyn Contreras (2:02.4), Ethan Fisher (2:01.7), Cervantes (2:02.1) and Wildeman (1:56.875), the Buffs used Fisher’s second leg to gain ground on Olathe East, then Cervantes nearly made up all of a 20-meter deficit when he handed off to Wildeman, who was running his final high school race of his career.
“It just came from the heart,” Wildeman said, when asked where the surprising run/time came from. “It was my last track meet, and coach (Derek Algrim) had told me to run and make it hurt. So that’s what I did.”
Cervantes, who had struggled in his Friday 3,200-meter run, said he felt much better today for the relay.
“It’s a little redemption, but I’m very grounded in what I do,” Cervantes said. “I think everything started looking good on Ethan’s leg and we were just able to keep catching up.”
For Fisher, the youngest of the group as a sophomore, it was just hard to explain.
“This feels great because when you’re ranked No. 14, no one expects anything,” he said. “The adrenaline just kept getting bigger and bigger.”
For Savolt, the win against Junction City’s Newman was a season-long pursuit, and it didn’t materialize until she caught the Bluejay speedster at the final hurdle, just a few meters away from the finish line.
“You know that’s how I usually finish, strong at the end,” said a smiling Savolt. “I don’t know what it is about the curve, but I always am slowing down there at the 200 and then get stronger — just about like normal.”
Achieving her goal of gold caps off a strong junior season in which she set school marks in her three individual events, including the long jump and triple jump. Earlier in the day, she placed fifth in the long jump (17-08) to duplicate her state finish of a year ago.
“This just feels awesome,” Savolt said. “I was right there with her over the hurdle, and then I just thought I wanted it so bad. The big thing in addition to winning is to get a PR here.”
Garden City’s pole vault tradition of recent years saw its reputation upheld with the effort of seniors Jaycob Vargas and Thomas Turpin.
Vargas, with a season best 15-00, was only able to clear 14-00, but that was still good enough for second behind Washburn Rural’s Zachary Chandler, who cleared 15-00 himself.
Turpin, another senior and in just his first year competing at the varsity level, also cleared 14-00, going out at 14-06 as did Vargas, and finished in a three-way tie for third with Seth Mosburg of Shawnee Mission Northwest and Colton Goodman of Gardner-Edgerton. Vargas had five misses as compared to seven for the other three.
“The day was actually pretty good,” Vargas said, who had no-heighted at the 2017 regionals and missed the state meet. “We had a nice tailwind that helped, and it’s nice to keep the tradition going.”
Vargas, while happy with second, was not pleased that he went out so early.
“I really wanted another crack at 15-00 today, so that’s the biggest disappointment,” Vargas said.
Turnpin, meanwhile, was ecstatic with his medal, considering he had never competed at the varsity level until his senior year.
“It was a long four years, and I’d decided I wanted to finally do something and I just put everything I had into the season,” Turpin said. “This year, I struggled early, but then things started to click, and I went 13-00, then 13-06, then 14-00. I felt like I belonged here. Tying for third feels amazing. I was pretty relaxed early but as we went higher the nerves started to play a role.”
Raegan Linenberger had her second consecutive fourth-place finish in her high jump specialty, this time clearing 5-04 and going out after three misses at 5-06, the height she cleared a year ago and had been consistently hitting this season.
“A little bummed about it because I’d been working for 5-08 after making 5-06 regularly this year,” Linenberger said. “Not sure what happened today. I wasn’t able to drive myself up and over like I had been. Maybe nerves. There was a little more pressure this year with my ranking going up.”
Still, Linenberger left the podium with her fourth medal in four trips to the state.
“I know I’ll look back and feel better, but right now, it’s just disappointing,” she said.
Senior Garret Doll had high hopes of winning or a top three finish, but managed to still place high with a season best 4:26.22 to place fourth in the 1,600-meters and then ran a 2:00.33 in the 800 to place fifth.
With an eighth-place finish in the final 4x400-meter relay (3:26.80), the Buffs boys finished with 35 points and tied for fifth with Topeka-Washburn Rural in the team chase. The girls team, meanwhile, scored 30.5 points and finished in 11th place.
Full state results can be found at GCTelegram.com.