GCMS High School girls track and field starts season with young roster

GIBSON CITY -- Erica Kostoff will have a closer view of her Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School girls track and field team this year.
Last year, Seeff Grauer took on Kostoff's head coaching duties Kostoff as she gave birth to her daughter. 
"I'm really excited to be back," Kostoff said. "I got to see a few track meets last year, but I'm glad to actually be more of a part of it this year."
While Kostoff is being welcomed back to the Falcons, the team is also welcoming some newcomers.
"We've got a lot of new girls this year," Kostoff said.
The Falcons have 12 freshmen along with what Kostoff estimated as six sophomores
"Most of our roster is (made up of) freshmen and sophomores, which is interesting because, as far as runners go, I don't know them very well," Kostoff said. "It's exciting because you don't know what they can do, but you also don't know where to put them. It'll just take us a little time to figure out who's going to do what this season."
One of the freshmen joining the Falcons is Michaela Dykes, who finished fourth in the 400-meter dash and 800-meter run at last year's IESA Class AA Monticello Sectional and was part of GCMS's 4x400 relay team -- along with Erin Stroh, Haley Brown and Haven Hathaway -- that finished fifth.
Michaela Dykes also was a Twin County Conference champion in the 400-meter dash and a conference runner-up in the 800-meter run.
Michaela Dykes' older sister, junior Delanie Dykes, qualified for the IHSA Class 1A state meet in the 800-meter run and 400-meter dash and was part of GCMS's state-bound 4x800 and 4x400 relays. 
Delanie Dykes took the sixth-place state medal with a time of 2:20.67.
"It'll be fun to watch them get to compete together, maybe even on some relays," Kostoff said.
Delanie Dykes was one of eight athletes to qualify for the state meet through last year's IHSA Class 1A Paxton Sectional, many of whom are returning this year.
"They bring that experience with them. Hopefully, the freshmen are hungry to join them and take spots on those relays because we're missing a couple of girls who were relay girls last year. We've got to figure out who's going to fill their shoes. We're missing some good leadership from last year, but we'll see," Kostoff said. 
"I think the girls can step up and have a lot of potential. We'll just try to stay away from injury because we'll need all of our numbers. I feel like our strength is usually our numbers. That's how we can be successful."
Twenty-five total athletes are on GCMS's squad this year.
"We're excited," Kostoff said. "We have decent numbers."
Three of the GCMS 4x800 relay runners -- Bayleigh Shoemaker, Shreya Patel and Emily Sommer -- who ran at state graduated while then-freshman Leah Martin was the other runner.
Sommer was also part of the state-bound 4x400 relay team, but along with Delanie Dykes, Jacey Goin returns for her senior year and Dennise Matuszewski will return for her sophomore year.
Shoemaker was also part of the GCMS 4x100 relay team that ran at state along with Goin, Matuszewski and senior Megan Meunier.
Kostoff said she has eight different names for relays this year.
"I don't know who's the fastest," Kostoff said. "We've had a couple of weeks of practice, but that's it. We haven't really had time to race against each other to see who's the quickest."
Claire Retherford returns for her junior year after qualifying for state last year in the discus. Other than her, there is not a lot of depth in the field positions, according to Kostoff.
"We definitely have some holes to fill. We're not very strong in field events," Kostoff said. "We don't have a lot of people coming back. We graduated some really great field-event people over the last three years, so that'll be one area we're looking to fill."
Kostoff is also looking for hurdlers and distance running.
"It looks like we have some girls who will do well (in hurdles) with time," Kostoff said. "(Distance running) could be interesting. We've worked a little bit on hurdles, so we have quite a few hurdlers this year who are new to hurdling, so that'll be interesting to see. I'm just trying to figure out what everyone would be good in."
GCMS's indoor schedule includes a meet with other Heart of Illinois Conference teams at Illinois Wesleyan on Thursday, March 15.
"That'll be interesting just to see what everyone in the conference has," Kostoff said. "It's fun because everyone gets to compete. Sometimes, at the indoor meets, it's tough because you can only take your top ones or twos, so this will be nice because we can try a lot of different things, especially since we have so many freshmen or people who haven't been in high school track before. We can spread it out and see what they're good at and what they have potential in."
The Falcons' first outdoor meet will be at Paxton-Buckley-Loda at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 29.
"You can put as many people as you want to in things, so everybody gets a chance to participate, which is what I want to see," Kostoff said. "I want to see what everyone can do and what they enjoy and love." 


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