Garden City teams race to front of pack

GCHS Athletics

EL DORADO - It seems as though every fall cross country season, the gradual improvement of times is evident for most runners.

Perhaps none more so than Garden City High School’s runners, who on Saturday had perhaps their finest outing of the 2021 season in claiming the boys team championship and the girls runner-up position at the El Dorado Invitational, conducted over the challenging El Dorado State Lake layout.

GCHS Head Coach Krista Linenberger’s youthful squads, only two senior boys and no senior girls, grabbed the boys’ title with 51 points and were paced by junior Devin Chappel’s runner-up finish of 16:47.54 which helped the Buffs finish ahead of team runner-up Arkansas City’s 56 points.

The GCHS girls, meanwhile, utilized a pair of top-10 finishes from freshman Cate Wiese and junior Jocelyn Sosa to finish with 86 points, well back of team winner Emporia’s 37 points. The Buffs tied with Winfield in points but were awarded the runner-up spot based upon their sixth time which was ahead of Winfield’s sixth runner.

Wiese clocked a 21:09.50 over the 5-kilometer race layout to place seventh, while Sosa was not far behind in ninth place with a time of 21:27.90.

The boys were rock solid throughout the five runners who scored, with Chappel being followed by sophomore Kailyn Munoz’ fifth-place finish in a personal best time of 17:12.97 and junior Evan Gurrola’s eighth-place standing in 17:43.38. Freshman Hayden Nemechek was 13th with a time of 18:03.73 and senior Isaiah Casados rounded out the counting times with 18:25.80 and in 23rd place. Non-counting times were senior Kenji Craig in 27th at 18:35.23 and freshman Taran Castro in 29th at 18:37.80.

Chappel, who was runner-up a year ago in the Western Athletic Conference, said Saturday’s effort was a positive one for individuals and for the team.

“It was a good race today,” said Chappel. “I felt pretty good and got a good time. The boys’ team ran really well. I am looking forward to seeing how we match up to the WAC next week.”

On the girls’ side, the two top 10 runners were followed by freshman Natalie Guevara’s 14th place finish in 22:19.49, with juniors Samantha Orozco in 29th with a time of 23:12.69 and Lana Rodriguez in 39th with a clocking of 23:56.40. Junior Joscelyn Monarrez was the remaining runner in 44th place with a time of 24:15.53.

“Our teams did great today,” said Wiese. “I feel good about my race. I pushed myself and that makes me excited for WAC.”

The first month of the season, with arduous workouts and about one meet per week, has seen great improvement on the part of both teams, said Linenberger.

“El Dorado was a good test today to finish off a big week of workouts,” said the veteran coach. “We responded well despite taking a lot from them in Monday-Tuesday workouts.”

Linenberger said the next two weeks will be the test of how the summer and first month training has prepared the runners.

“That is reassuring that the strength is there, and hopefully gives our runners confidence going into the next couple of weeks,” Linenberger said. “Knowing that their legs will be rested. We are very excited about both groups and the progress we have made over the last month.”

This was the final tune-up for the Buffs’ teams as they will compete on Thursday, at the WAC championships, to be run in Dodge City. After that, they will have a little more than a week to prepare for the Class 6A regional meet at Wichita’s Cessna Activity Center on Oct. 23. 

The top three teams from each regional will qualify for the Class 6A state meet, which will be Oct. 30 at Augusta’s 4-Mile Creek Resort.