For GCMS, team trophy within reach

CHARLESTON — The book on the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley girls' track and field team would be a fast read.

Really fast.

The Falcons had the state's quickest time in three running events during Thursday's Class 1A IHSA state semifinal session at Eastern Illinois' O'Brien Stadium.

The performance — which included four school records — has GCMS athletes looking past individual accolades in Saturday's finals.

"We've had individual success," senior Angel Gaesser said. "What can we do as a team? That's the big dream."

The Falcons have finalists in eight events, including the top two qualifiers in the 800, Gaesser and Sydni Meunier, who went head-to-head in the same preliminary heat.

Gaesser was blown away when learning she'd blown away the school record with the fastest 800-meter run in area history.

"Are you kidding me?" she said when told her time was 2 minutes, 11.85 seconds. "I thought it was about 2:18. I was looking to go under 2:15 but never thought I would get to that this year."

Her previous best was 2:16.63.

Defending state champ Meunier set the pace the first 600 meters, then Gaesser took off.

"All of a sudden, I had a kick," Gaesser said. "I should have kicked sooner. They say no passing on the curve, but I knew I had to pass then or I would have too much left."

Despite running second, Meunier had no disappointment in her 2:12.32 clocking.

"It was my best by two seconds," she said. "I knew it was in me. I ran this race to conserve energy and get to the finals."

Less than an hour after the 800, Meunier set out to challenge the state record in the 1,600. She came within four seconds of the mark that has held for 28 years while running the quickest time ever by an area athlete (4:50.75) and the fourth best in history by an Illinois high school athlete.

Meunier had almost identical 800-meter splits, opening with a 2:25.8 and closing in 2:24.9.

"My big goal for the year individually was 4:50," the Notre Dame recruit said. "I got that. Now I'm ready to have some fun. The goal is to win and help my team."

To put Meunier's 1,600 time in perspective, the day's second-best qualifying time belonged to St. Joseph-Ogden's Chelsea Blaase (5:04.96). Even though Blaase trailed Meunier by more than 14 seconds, she broke her school record (set in 1976 by Patty Plymire) by more than 10 seconds and posted the seventh-best time on the all-time Area Honor Roll.

Gaesser and Meunier weren't done with their heroics for the day. In the meet-ending 1,600-meter relay, they helped GCMS post its third No. 1 qualifying time (school-record 4:01.01). Meunier ran her 400-meter split in 58.8 seconds and anchor Gaesser finished it off with a 57.1 leg.

Despite just 45 minutes for recovery time from her open 1,600, Meunier was confident.

"I gave it my all in the mile," she said, "but I trust my training. I gave it my all in the 4-by-4, too, and I'm glad it came out as well as it did."

Jordyn Nettleton, who reached the finals in both hurdles races, ran the leadoff leg in the 1,600 relay followed by LaToyah Baillie.

"I love that I can add to their success and be part of their team," Baillie said.

Meunier was quick to offer a correction.

"Our team," she said. "Our team."

Nettleton reached the finals in a fourth event. She was part of the advancing 400 relay with Jess Meyer, Lauren Nagle and anchor Gaesser, whose fourth event Saturday will be the triple jump (seeded fourth).

The 400 foursome stepped off the ninth-best time in area history (school-record 50.07), despite a near-fatal bobble.

"It was a little risky on the handoffs," Gaesser said. "I barely got the tip of the baton and had to flip it to my other hand. Luck was on our side."

Battling an illness, Nettleton said before the 300 hurdles, "all I felt like was going to sleep. I thought it would take a miracle to pull it out,"

She ran a career-best 46.85.

"We have a chance to make school history, and it's so exciting to see history being made," Nettleton said.

GCMS has never won a team trophy in its 40 years with a girls' track and field program.

Based on its qualifying marks, GCMS is seeded to score 52 points Saturday. Last year's state champion, Byron, had 54 points. The 2010 Class 1A winner, Byron, had 46 1/2 points, and Bloomington Central Catholic's 2009 titlist had 41 points.

Pole vaulter Jaymi Nettleton is another GCMS finalist.

Thankfully, GCMS doesn't co-op with neighboring Fisher for track like it does in soccer and wrestling. Otherwise, an event that occurred in the 800 couldn't have happened.

The state's third-best Class 1A qualifying time was registered by Fisher's Kristen Paris (2:15.47) and it ranks fifth on the all-time Area Honor Roll.

It wouldn't have been possible in a co-op setting because schools can only enter two individuals per event.

Today at EIU, the semifinals for Class 2A and 3A athletes are scheduled, starting at 8:30.

Class 1A finalists
A look at how the area will be represented in Saturday’s Class 1A girls’ track and field state finals, starting at 10 a.m.:
SCHOOL    INDIVIDUALS    RELAYS    TOTAL
Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley    7    2    9
St. Joseph-Ogden    6    1    7
Sullivan/Okaw Valley    4    1    5
Fisher    4    0    4
Monticello    2    1    3
Argenta-Oreana    2    0    2
Hoopeston Area    2    0    2
Arcola    1    0    1
Arthur-Lovington    1    0    1
LeRoy    1    0    1
Tuscola    1    0    1
Unity    1    0    1
NOTE: Qualifiers for Saturday include the 3,200 meters, an event where there were no preliminaries.

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