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GIBSON CITY — The Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley boys track and field team hopes to build on a 2013 campaign that included a Heart of Illinois Conference championship and a second-place finish at the Class 1A Heyworth Sectional.
With a core that includes a returning state finalist among numerous state qualifiers as well, things should look good for this season as well.
“We’ve got a good, solid core coming back,” GCMS head coach Mark Ward said. “I’m really happy with what’s coming back. We do have to play that chess game to find out who fits where perfectly. We may have to sacrifice a few events for the good of the cause. I’m kind of smiling right now. It looks pretty good. Health is one issue. We’ve got to keep people healthy and make sure that the injuries don’t pull us in a backwards motion. We want to stay moving forward.
“That’s the season in a nutshell right now. I’m just really proud of them so far. They’ve been doing a lot of hard work. That competitive spirit is coming out working out in the hallways and things of that sort. That’s a good thing to see.”
Ward said he expects a lot from his distance team as well. David Ricks will be the captain of a distance team that also includes Ross Royal, Andrew Young and Clay Gaesser.
The 4x800 relay team, along with the 4x400 relay team, took first place in last year’s Heyworth Sectional.
“We’re looking for quite a few returners, especially in the distance area,” Ward said. “We’re really liking what we’re seeing from that area. I really feel that our 4x800 and 4x400 relays should be really solid this year.”
Ricks returns for his senior season after qualifying for the state finals in the 800-meter run and winning the News-Gazette Honor Roll Meet last May.
“The chances are really good this year in that 800 run,” Ward said. “We’ve got to get him there and get him ready to go. He could repeat and be back down in the finals. He’s going to compete for the No. 1 or No. 2 position in the state in the 800. He’s just a very strong and determined runner. It’s going to pay off. He’s also going to be able to use that determination to help fuel some of the other guys’ fire and drive.”
Nick Meunier made a splash as a freshman last year with a fifth-place finish in the 400-meter dash event in last March’s Illinois Prep Top Times Meet.
“Meunier even wants to move up to the 800 level. We’re working toward that,” Ward said. “Nick is still kind of in limbo right now. We’re still trying to decide, with the numbers that we have, where we put our focus. Nick’s a decent athlete where we can use his speed in many different areas. In track and field, you only get to choose four spots, so we have to choose our 3-4 spots very wisely, and we’ll just have to see how time goes.
“He is a very competitive 400-meter runner and he can move to the 800 run very easily and stay at his 200-meter dash level also. We’re going to have to make sure that we just keep an eye on him, and I’m going to have to make sure that I get him in the right place so we can use him to the best of his ability and make sure that he gets a chance to get down to state in whatever events that works out for him.”
In the high jump, Chris Harmet was two inches away from state qualification, as he leaped 6-1 in the Heyworth Sectional while Tri-Valley’s Aaron Tagala and Lexington’s Jordan Algar jumped 6-3.
“He was basically one jump away from going to state last year in the high jump,” Ward said. “He has a possibility of getting down to state. We’ve got quite a few areas where we’re going to gain some points and get some good things from. We’re just waiting to get outside and see what we can do.”
Drake Royal, who went to state last year in the 200-meter dash, returns for his senior season. He will be the captain of the sprint teams.
“We’re a little thin in the sprint area, but we still have some quality guys who are going to contribute and do some good work for us,” Ward said. “Zach Johnson is an up-and-coming sophomore. He’ll be a hurdler and a sprinter, maybe a jumper. We’re still building on our 4x100 and 4x200. We’ve had some kids go out this year that haven’t gone out before who could contribute to those.”
Senior Wiley Hasty will be the captain for GCMS’s throwers.
“He and Lane (Dueringer) were constantly battling back-and-forth last year for the first spot for shot put and discus,” Ward said. “I hope that competition keeps going.”
GCMS is scheduled to have its first indoor meet Saturday in Danville.
The Falcons’ first outdoor meet will be in early April at Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School.
“Hopefully, the weather permits us to be able to be out there and we won’t have to shovel any snow before we have to run,” Ward said.
GCMS will host its sectional at 4 p.m. Friday, May 23.