Garden City High School claims 2020-21 WAC Champions Cup
Going into the final day of the regular-season spring sports schedule, Garden City High School held a slender three-point lead over rival Dodge City in the race for the annual Western Athletic Conference Champions Cup.
The Cup is a yearly competition among the five WAC schools, awarding points in all 21 girls and boy varsity sports based on the standings in each sport. Every sport carries the same point distribution totals.
On Thursday, the AquaBuffs captured the WAC title in their own pool, defeating Great Bend for the first time since 2002 and that was enough to carry the overall point total in favor of the Buffs.
Final total was Garden City 170, Dodge City 165. It was one of the closest races since the Cup was introduced in the 2008-2009 season. Great Bend won the title in the first year and Dodge City won in 2010. Since then, the Cup has been located in Garden City.
Also on Thursday, the Buffs’ boys track team tied for third with Dodge and the girls track team took third outright while the girls’ soccer team finished outright third in their standings. All totaled, it helped the Buffs claim their 10th consecutive Champions Cup. It might have been 11 had the 2020 season not been cut short after winter sports and the spring sports season cancelled as the Buffs held a commanding lead over Dodge City a year ago as well.
“This demonstrates that we’re competing for championships in all the sports,” said Drew Thon, GCHS Athletics Director. “I’m immensely proud of our student-athletes and our coaches for competing so well during a difficult year of the pandemic. We had to shut down our athletics for six weeks and for all of our student-athletes and coaches to persevere just shows the quality of character that they have.”
The girls swimming title was a mild surprise, according to Coach Jennifer Meng following their victory Thursday. But with it being one of the final sports to be decided, it was a huge element in the final point total.
“We honestly didn’t know if we had enough depth to beat Great Bend,” Meng said. “But the girls just had a great day in the pool, and it not only feels good to win the title for this team but to contribute to the Champions Cup. Coach Thon told us that he thought that might put us over the top…and it did.”
The overall balance of the Buffaloes’ athletics program is evident in that eight of the 21 sports captured a WAC title in this school year – boys bowling, boys golf, softball, boys and girls swimming, boys and girls tennis and volleyball.
Runner-up finishes came from girls bowling along with boys cross country, with two sports tying for second – girls basketball and football. Five teams finished third and three others finished tied for third. No teams finished fourth and only one team placed fifth.
“We are blessed to have a number of veteran coaches who understand the competition and do a great job of preparing the student-athletes for their events,” Thon said. “Without a doubt, we’ve shown over the last decade that we have the best overall athletic program in the WAC.”
Thon said that he was impressed how the coaches, and perhaps even more so, the student-athletes, handled the suspension of winter sports in late November through December.
“We’re the only school in the WAC and in western Kansas that sat out that long due to the policies we had to work with,” Thon said. “It was a lot of struggle and everyone just showed a lot of maturity and a lot of resolve. I’m so proud of everyone we have here at Garden City High School.”
Thon also said the 2020-21 school year was a highly competitive one for WAC schools at the state level.
Dodge City won the 6A boys soccer title in the fall; Garden City made the final four in volleyball; Dodge City’s girls reached the final four in girls basketball; Garden City’s bowling teams placed high in both girls and boys along with top 10 individuals in both at the state tournament. Wrestling continues to be among the best WAC sports at the state level, with top team and individual performances.
Boys golf just won the WAC and is ranked among the top 10 Class 6A schools heading to postseason play. The softball team won the WAC and is hosting regionals Wednesday as a top four seeded team. Track and field has several individuals who are ranked in the top 15 of their respective events as they prepare to host regionals Friday for their qualifying to advance to the state meet on May 27.
The Buffs’ boys tennis team has both of its singles players and one doubles team compete at the 6A state tournament in Prairie Village. The girls swim team will have relay teams and several individuals who have state qualifying marks for the 6A meet in Topeka.
“Each season, the WAC has a lot of teams and individuals who compete well at the state level, and this year is no exception,” Thon said. “The WAC competition prepares us for that and just reflects that it’s one of the better large-class leagues in the state. Overall, this has been one of the better years for the WAC in statewide tournaments.”
In addition to Garden City and Dodge City, league members include 6A Liberal and Class 5A Hays and Great Bend. Great Bend was third in the Cup points total with 116.3, Hays fourth with 105.3 and Liberal fifth with 71.3.