In the eight years as the track and field coach at Mill Valley, Mark Peck has never been a part of a season quite like this one.
For the coach who has been running the program since the school opened its doors in 2000, this year's girls squad rewarded him with one of the best showings at the Kansas Class 5A state meet in May.
"It was exciting for me and for our coaches. Bob Lewis is our distance coach, and Bob is a veteran and has been in the business as long as I have," Peck said. "We were talking at the state track meet, and he goes, 'You know, this is a lot of fun. It's so much different from years past. What's so unique about it is it's not just one or two kids carrying it, it's a total team effort.' And that was exciting for us, to see our kids as a whole do so well. We had so many kids bring home medals. We've never experienced anything like that as coaches and it was a blast. It was an absolute blast for us."
The MVHS girls finished second, 10 points behind St. Thomas Aquinas - which beat out the Jags for the regionals title, as well - making Peck the 2008 All-Area Track and Field Coach of the Year.
Peck got solid performances from his girls on the track and in the field, with nearly a dozen top-five medals by individuals and relay teams.
Alexis Butler finished third in the 200 meter and was part of the 400-meter relay team with Khalila Smith, Brianna Childs and Alaina Fairbanks that finished first, despite not a single one of them making noise in the 100, individually.
"In that group of girls, we didn't have one girl that made it to the finals in the 100 meter dash. And that's unusual to have a 4x100 that doesn't have a sprinter that's going to make it to the finals," Peck said.
Fairbanks also took home two fifth-place medals in the 100-meter hurdle and the pole vault. Ashley Bowman finished two spots ahead of Fairbanks in the pole vault to claim the bronze.
Whitney Hartman placed second in the 800.
In addition, she was a member of the 1,600-meter relay team which finished fourth and the 3,200-meter relay group that placed third.
Hartman was joined by Smith, Kirsten Moore and Jasa DuMontelle on the 1,600 team with DuMontelle - who finished third in the high jump - Katie Maybell and Kelsey O'Hara teaming with Hartman on the 3,200 team.
Mill Valley's only individual first-place medal came from Katie Bauer in the triple jump.
"She (Bauer) had the No. 1 jump in 5A in the long jump coming in and scratched two out of her three jumps and jumped about two feet behind the board and didn't make it in the long jump. I know she was hugely disappointed on Friday, but I talked to her a little bit through the next day and told her, 'You can do this. You've got the ability to do this. Just come out relax and go get it.' And she won the triple jump on her last jump."
Bauer's timing was critical to Mill Valley's chances.
"I knew that if Katie could pull the triple jump off and win it, we had a legit chance of contending for the state championship. And we were right there until the last event."
With next year being his last year as a coach of the track and field team, Peck's already revved up for what he says could be even more monumental than this years.
"The encouraging thing about our kids ... they're young. You look at all our kids and we have a really young group of kids. We're going to have this nucleus of kids back again next year."
Butler and O'Hara, along with Katie Saxon - who finished fifth at regionals in the long jump - are the only key components from this year's girls squad that will be graduating.