By David Fong
TROY — One year ago, both Morgan Gigandet and Kelsey Walters were just happy to be competing at the Division I state track and field meet in Columbus.
Gigandet was a freshman who had some success earlier in the season as she broke several decades-old school records, but was largely unknown on the statewide level. Walters was a converted sprinter who was a relative neophyte in the world of throwing who never expected to make it to state as a shot putter.
“Last year I was just happy to make it to state,” Walters said. “I never expected to make it in the shot put.”
Things have changed considerably for both Gigandet and Walters heading into this year’s state meet — both will compete on Saturday, the second day of the competition — and they have adjusted their goals from last season considerably.
This year, simply being there is not enough for Gigandet or Walters — they want more. Much more.
Gigandet — who finished seventh in the 3,200 at the state meet as a freshman — will be one of two runners heavily favored to win the event this year. She and Hilliard Davidson junior India Johnson have posted the two fastest Division I times in the state in the event this year.
Gigandet and Johnson quickly are establishing one of the better rivalries in the state. In one head-to-head meeting between the two April 28 at the Wayne Invitational, Johnson (10:39.04) handed Gigandet (10:48.57) her only loss of the season in the 3,200. If Gigandet is capable of running a time comparable to her school record (10:40.33), she and Johnson could give fans ones of the best races of the meet.
“Last year I definitely was excited just to be going to state,” Gigandet said. “This year I’m going to try and win. I’m going to go out and run my best. I know I’m going to have to work hard.”
Walters began her high school career as a sprinter — she remained a key cog on all of the Trojans’ sprint relays through her senior year — but began adding the shot put to her events list after some prodding from Trojans’ throwing coach Aaron Gibbons.
She qualified for state last year with a throw of 37-10 — a mark she has since bettered by 4 feet, having qualified for state this year with a throw of 40-10 last week at regionals. Last year at state, Walters threw a 38-9.5, good enough for 10th place — one spot away from making the finals.
She’s consistently thrown in the 40s all season, which — if she can replicate at the state meet — should put her in the running for a spot on the podium.
“That’s my goal,” said Walters, who will throw at Ball State University next year. “I definitely want to go over there and throw my best and hopefully place.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong