By BRETT MARSHALL
For the first time in his six years as head track coach at Garden City High School, Mike Smith firmly believes both the Buffaloes' boys and girls teams are primed to make some big noise at the Class 6A state track and field championships, which begin Friday and conclude Saturday at Wichita State University's Cessna Stadium.
Seven Buffs' boys will compete in 10 individual events, while five Lady Buffs will be entered in nine events. The boys are entered in two relays and the girls will have all three baton teams vying for medals.
"It's a pretty good group, and a good representation of both track and field events," Smith said on Wednesday. "The kids feel good, and we've let them get their legs underneath them like we did last week for regionals."
Smith takes his team into the state meet with some of the top Class 6A performers, and he is looking forward to seeing how the entire team competes over the two days of what is arguably the best high school state track meet in the United States.
"We've got some who are ranked among the top eight where you get a medal, and we've got some that aren't," Smith said. "Kids do surprising things at state, and times and rankings sometimes don't make any difference."
Headlining the Buffs' boys entry list is senior Jonathan DuVall, who claimed both the 110- and 300-meter hurdle race titles a year ago. The Wichita State-bound DuVall has shown no signs of senioritis, running personal bests of 14.00 (hand-timed) and 14.07 (electronic timed) in the 110s and a 38.14 in the 300s at last Friday's regional in Dodge City. Both times are at the top of the state's list for Class 6A, and his 14.07 is the fastest for all classes.
DuVall set school records in both hurdle races, breaking the seven-year old records established by Anthony Brown. Also on Friday at Dodge City, DuVall sailed 22-11.50 to win the long jump and also broke another school record in the process.
"I really thought Jonathan had some pressure on him last year and he went down there and performed really well," Smith said. "He believes he will run well and he's certainly prepared with the way he's run in the last two weeks."
Smith said he sees a difference in attitude overall with this group of athletes.
"I think the kids believe they can win and I think sometimes at state, it's a matter of finding that something extra to carry you through," Smith said. "Another big thing for us this week is that we're in school and we've been able to keep our normal routine of practice time and schedule."
Senior Aaron Vasquez, who just moved to Garden City in January, shares the top mark in the boys pole vault at 15-0. Dusty Tempel was a qualifier in both the 200 (22.61) and the long jump (22-6 3/4). Also on the boys side, Smith will have Jacob Thomas in the 3,200-meters (10:19.58), Pedro Dominguez in the high jump (6-0), Brett Cady in the pole vault (13-6) and Mitch Mayfield in the 110-meter high hurdles. The Buffs' 4x100-meter relay team, which has a season best of 42.88 will run in Friday's prelims while the 4x800 will run early Saturday afternoon in the finals.
On the girls side, the distance group of Kayla Doll, Alex Miller and Katy Doll, along with long and triple jumper Taryn Tempel, who also qualified in the 400-meters, will headline the Lady Buffs.
Kayla Doll, who is believed to have been timed in 2:19.77 at the regionals, previously had run 2:20.38, and ranks among the top in 6A in the 800-meters. She was fifth a year ago as a sophomore.
Miller has clocked season bests of 5:23.05 and 11:30.71 in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, while Katy Doll, ninth and 10th in those two respective races at the state a year ago, has season best marks of 5:25.18 and 11:43.41.
Tempel had personal bests in the regional meet in the long jump (17-4 3/4), triple jump (35-7 1/2) and the 400 meters (1:00.02).
Allison Harman ran her best time of the year in the 100 meters to qualify with a mark of 12.96 seconds.
The Lady Buffs' relays are strong, with the 4x100 having a best of 51.36, the 4x400 at 4:11.59 and the 4x800, with Miller, Neysa Harman, and the Doll sisters owning a best of 9:46.38, which ranks them second in Class 6A and for all classes.
"It's the biggest group in some time, and certainly the biggest group with chances to score in several events as we've had since I started coaching," Smith said. "I think the time of the different events is spread out for us, and it looks like it should work out for everybody."
Schedule, Qualifiers in Scoreboard, Page A11.