By BRETT MARSHALL
For one night, well at least for a couple of hours, all the fall sports student-athletes at Garden City High School had an opportunity to showcase some of their skills to community parents, interested fans and young boys and girls.
It was the second Meet the Buffs Night, the brainchild of GCHS Athletics Director Martin Segovia, that brought the several hundred athletes together at Buffalo Stadium.
Each sport, with head coaches and staff, and the athletes themselves, had its own station set up where they displayed some of their skills, showed the youngsters how to play a certain sport, and generally had a good time.
"It's a good thing for the kids and for the community," said GCHS football coach Brian Hill. "Everyone has a chance to interact with all the others."
Segovia said that so many of the sports overlap with others during the regular season of events that sometimes the student-athletes don't have that chance to see their school mates.
"It's a great way to introduce the kids to the community and for them to visit with young kids about their sports," Segovia said.
For junior Erik Barragan, it was a time to kick the soccer ball around with a few young future players and get his mind ready for the upcoming Wichita South Titan Classic, which will begin the Buffs' boys season on Monday when they take on Maize at 1 p.m. in an opening-round game.
"Other teams will look at the fact we lost 15 seniors and that we might not have a good team," said Barragan, the team's leading scorer from 2012, when the Buffs went 15-3-0 and reached the Class 6A regional championship game before losing in double overtime to Derby, 4-3. "We had a good summer. We played some tournaments and won them. I think the passing will be one of our strengths. We've grown up together and know each other. It should be a really good year."
Senior girls golfer Abbi Shaddix and her youthful teammates and coach Melinda Base brought a short putting carpet for demonstrations on the art of the short game.
Shaddix, last year's Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, looks to improve on her sixth-place finish at the Class 6A state tournament. She also helped the Lady Buffs to a fifth-place team finish.
"It's a young team, and I've spent some time helping teach them things about the game," said Shaddix, who will be in her fourth year on the varsity squad. "You've got to practice a lot. Golf is not a sport where you just practice a few hours and then put the game away. You have to practice with a purpose, and that's what we're trying to get them to learn."
Base will have a group of nine players on her roster this year, and that will determine the six varsity spots.
"It's a game that requires you to be patient," Shaddix said. "I don't really know how the WAC will be this year, so we'll just wait and see."
Shaddix said she is looking forward to her final year at the prep level, especially considering the Lady Buffs will be hosting the Class 6A state tournament on Oct. 21 at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course. That, of course, is predicated on both individual and team qualifying at regionals the week prior.
"Definitely I'm looking forward to state," Shaddix said. "Expectations are high. I had a disappointing finish at state, and I've learned from that. My mental game has improved the most over the summer."
Senior girls tennis player Jannette Martinez is one of several returners for coach Rod Robinson, who greeted approximately 30 players at the outset of fall practice.
Martinez is expected to compete for one of the two singles spots on the team.
"We went to summer camps and learned a lot and worked hard," Martinez said. "We all came here at night and practiced and played, so I think we're all a lot better than we were a year ago."
Martinez said she had improved virtually every aspect of her game — serving, groundstrokes and backhand.
"I'm still working on the touch shots and being able to place them right," Martinez said.
Season opening events for each sport are as follows: Football--Sept. 6 at Bixby, Okla., 7 p.m.; Volleyball--Sept. 3 vs. Salina Central, 4 p.m.; Cross Country--Sept. 5 at Great Bend, 4 p.m.; Soccer--Sept. 2 vs. Maize High at Wichita South Titan Classic, 1 p.m.; Girls Golf--Sept. 3 at Hays High, 1 p.m.; Girls Tennis--Sept. 14 at Great Bend, 9 a.m.
GCHS notes: The Lady Buffs volleyball team will have its annual Brown and White Scrimmage at 5 p.m. today at The New Garden. New head coach Shanda Sanders will get an early look at how her team performs under game-like conditions.
On Friday, the Buffs' football team takes its turn with its Brown and White Scrimmage at 7 p.m. at Buffalo Stadium.
Coach Brian Hill plans a full dress rehearsal for the Buffs' season opener Sept. 6. at Bixby, Okla.