By BRETT MARSHALL
It only seems as though half the fall semester is completed before the Garden City High School Lady Buffs tennis team steps onto the court to begin their 2013 season.
But three weeks into the first quarter, the Lady Buffs of coach Rod Robinson will finally get some other competition when they travel for the 9 a.m. Saturday Great Bend Invitational.
In an unusual twist, Robinson's top two qualifiers through the preseason rankings competition — Claire Schmidt and Shai Cartmill — have opted to join up to play No. 1 doubles for the Lady Buffs while Jannette Martinez, the third ranked player, will be at No. 1 singles.
"Jannette's always wanted to play singles and Claire and Shai wanted to play doubles," Robinson explained. "It's an experiment. It's not written in stone that this is how it will be. We'll see how things go and then evaluate."
Schmidt is a junior while Cartmill is a sophomore. Martinez is a senior and playing No. 2 doubles in the season opener will be senior Andrea Viella. Senior Allison Doll and junior Tonia Carmona-Pastrana round out the varsity squad in No. 2 doubles.
"I think we'll be just as strong as we were last year," Robinson said. "Great Bend is still the team to beat in the WAC (Western Athletic Conference). They return nearly all their players from a year ago."
Robinson said he was pleased with the preseason practice and the work put in by the girls.
"Things shook out just about like I thought they would," Robinson said.
Schmidt played singles the majority of her sophomore year and qualified for state. She had played doubles in her freshman season, also qualifying for state that year with Mattie Silva. Martinez also was a state qualifier in 2012, paired with Kaylee Keller who opted not to come out for the team in her sophomore season. Another top player, senior Brittany Landon, also did not come out for the team.
"Obviously, we would have been much stronger had they came out, but they had their reasons," Robinson said. "The girls we've got are committed and working hard."
There are seven teams competing in the round-robin format, which affords everyone a chance to play six matches. The other schools are Ellinwood, Dodge City, Liberal, WaKeeney, Nickerson and host Great Bend.
At Dodge City, despite a runner-up team finish and two players finishing in the top 10, the girls' golf team had a disappointing day, head coach Melinda Base said.
The Lady Buffs had a team score of 377 at Mariah Hills Golf Course, 19 shots behind winner Maize High's 358.
Senior Abbi Shaddix shot an 81 on the par-72 layout to finish third individually as Maize's Taylyn Entriken was a medalist with a 75 and Buhler's Taryn Torgerson was second with a 79.
Megan Steward shot a 96 to finish in eighth place.
"It was not the day we were wanting," Base said. "It was disappointing for everyone. It was just a rough day for all of them. I don't know exactly what, but at times it looked like we were mentally unprepared for what they were dealing with."
Danielle Gasper shot a 97 while Lindsay Bradstreet and Maddie Gerber had 103s with one of those contributing to the team score. Hannah Leiker rounded out the scoring with a 111.
"We did get to see quite a few of the teams we'll see in our regional and we have a better idea now of what we're facing," Base said. "We certainly didn't play to our potential."
Next up for the Buffs will be a Tuesday trip to the Lawrence Invitational before they host their own invitational on Thursday at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.
At Hesston, the GCHS Lady Buffs cross country team continued their dazzling performance of the young season by claiming the Class 4-5-6A team title.
The Lady Buffs had the top three individual finishers in Alex Miller (15:00), Kayla Doll (15:03) and Chelsea Jackson (15:06) in the senior class division, while Maria Rodriguez was close behind in fifth (15:41). Also medaling in the senior class race were Cecilia Alvarez in 17th (17:25) and Ashley Smith in 19th (17:40). Junior Katy Doll placed third in her age division with a time of 15:44 for the 4-kilometer run at Hesston Golf Course.
Cabrina Corrales (13th, 17:28) and Claudia Castro (18th, 18:21) medaled in the sophomore division while Hannah Schultz (7th, 17:08), Aileen Gurrola (9th, 17:26) and Kaitlyn Kreutzer (13th, 17:39) medaled in the freshman division.
On the boys' side, junior Ray Urbina (18:21) placed 16th while freshmen Erik Chaparro (17:18) and Marcus Tula (17:21) took the top two spots in their class race.
"It was a great day, the weather was cloudy and cool and it wasn't windy," head coach Krista Linenberger said. "I think a lot of the kids probably ran their P.R. on this course from where they ran last year."
Linenberger said she was especially pleased with the packing times of the girls, with Katy Doll only 44 seconds behind Miller's top time. Rodriguez was three seconds in front of Katy Doll's time.
"Maria ran an excellent race, but the entire group ran very well," Linenberger said.
The Buffs will travel to Hays on Thursday for the HHS Invitational.