Two fine North Shore senior student/athletes won't be going to the WIAA State Track Meet this weekend as participants, and that is unfortunate, but both Homestead's Melinda Gayle and Whitefish Bay's Nate Gomoll will be there in spirit.
They're both dealing with life's challenges as well as teenagers can and both are looking at bright futures. Though their issues could not be more divergent.
Gayle's is the infinitely more complicated story. The top sprinter on the team, who turned in the fourth-fastest 100-meter time ever for the school at the WIAA regional meet on May 20, she has been a leader effusively praised by coach John Krueger despite the relentless demands of athletics, school and motherhood.
That's right, motherhood.
Gayle has a lovely 17-month toddler named Melaya Cole who is almost faster than she is based on the child's hilarious recent dash across the Homestead field house floor following the North Shore Conference Indoor.
Her mom could only chuckle when she thought of the time little Melaya took off with her relay baton.
Family is a great help
Gayle says she works hard to make sure that she has her priorities in order and noted that life would be infinitely harder without the support of a loving and compassionate family.
"I wouldn't be anywhere without them," she said.
Gayle is a quick study with a bright smile and an inviting laugh. When talking about the maddening and often difficult weather of this spring her face exploded into a beautiful giggle as she exclaimed "Wisconsin weather is so bipolar!"
But with the major demands of parenthood already old hand to her, she has become a serious young woman, too. The balancing act will no doubt be made more difficult by this decision, but she intends to start school next fall at MATC with the hopes of eventually qualifying for the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
As noted, Krueger is quick to praise Gayle for leadership on a very young team.
"She's just an inspiration," Krueger said. "She won't be going to state (the 400-meter relay just missed out at sectional taking fourth), but she will have a legacy here. She's done so many things to improve herself and this team already."
For Gomoll, the issue is more traditional. He had a sensational spring track season in 2012 and a fine fall cross country campaign later that year. But 2013 has been a challenge to him with small, annoying injuries limiting his participation and preventing him from reaching the lofty heights he reached last season.
Heights that had earned him a track and cross country scholarship to Marquette University.
Freak injury ends season
And just when he was feeling better and starting to reach for something a little more, fate tapped him on the shoulder, turned him around roughly and shouted "Ha!" in a very garlic-tinged voice right in his face.
It was a nothing little four-mile fitness run on May 19, the day before the WIAA regional meet that Gomoll and Bay were set to enter when the stress fracture in his foot occurred.
His event coach Mike Miller, was stunned. Gomoll got to the hospital and was almost immediately placed in a boot.
But something interesting happened, and it speaks volumes about Gomoll himself. He was sad and frustrated about the situation obviously, but he refused to sulk. He came to the sectional at Sussex Hamilton on May 23 hobbled physically by his boot but he remained mentally and emotionally engaged with everything that was going on.
In short, he made himself useful.
He consulted and encouraged. He was pleased with the boys 3,200 relay team turning in a season-best fifth-place effort and he was giving high fives and smiling with his friends on the girls team, who earned three state qualifying positions at the meet.
"It stinks," said the future engineering major of his injury, "but I'll be ready for summer and that's important. I'll also red-shirt next fall (at Marquette) and that'll give me even more of a chance to get ready."
Both he and Gayle will be graduating soon, and both seem to have the class and the courage needed to succeed, whatever demands life presents them in the future.
Based on their responses to their current situations, one can only wish them good luck and, of course, quick feet.