Mighty Casey

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Casey Gunlikson, center, stands between Cade Johnstone, left, and Huntley Project’s Lane Sumner, for the third and final time at the Class B State Track and Field Championships in Laurel on May 26. Gunlikson was the state champion in the 100-meter dash, 200 and 300 hurdles (STEPHEN KALB-KOENIGSFELD).


Gunlikson races ahead to best state track and field finish in SGHS history

Stephen Kalb-Koenigsfeld, Pioneer Editor

LAUREL — It takes guts, determination, a text from grandpa and some sketchy hotel eggs to get you atop the podium at the Class B State Track and Field Championships. Just ask Casey Gunlikson.

The junior speedster wrapped up a historic season with three individual state titles in the 100-meter dash, the 200 and 300 hurdles, while anchoring a school record-setting 4x100 relay and four-points-scoring 4x400 relay.

Gunlikson had the perfect wire-to-wire season, winning nearly each of those three events at each meet this year, while balancing the weight of the state fame on his shoulders. 

“They were looking at me to produce,” Gunlikson said. “I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. I feel like I did that. My grandpa sent me a really good text this morning. He said, ’Take one race AT A TIME.’ 

“And when it came to the hurdles, because there’s a lot that can go wrong in the hurdles, he said, ‘Take every hurdle, one hurdle at a time and you’ll be there.” 

PHOTOS: Day one State Track and Field Championships gallery

PHOTOS: Day two State Track and Field Championships gallery

Gunlikson had to laugh a bit when thinking back to his final stretch in the 300 hurdles, where he clocked a winning 38.85 seconds (the only sub-40-second time in the field). With two hurdles to go, Gunlikson’s trail leg clipped the bar on the follow through, making the small hiccup seam like a jarring eternity.

“It did, it did. I knew it wasn’t a bad clip, but once I did that, I knew I had to drive,” Gunlikson said. “I just knew I had to go that much harder now, just because of that tiny, tiny knick.”

Gunlikson nearly earned the Herders a third-place trophy on his own, scoring 30 points across his three individual events. But a first and fourth-place finish for the Manhattan Tigers in the two-mile race was enough to edge the Herders by four points, a 53-49 differential. 

Forsyth’s Cade Johnston tasted what Gunlikson had to settle for a year ago, with runner-ups in the 100 and 200 dashes. The Sweet Grass County sprinter edged Johnstone with an 11.09 in the quickest sprint, and again with a 22.40 in the 200. 

To make matters even more challenging, Gunlikson did all that in less than two hours. 

“Those two hours…I knew they were going to be intense,” Gunlikson said. “I went back to the camp between the 100 and 200, and that was the only break I had. I had some watermelon and that was it. I’ve been out here since then.”

With his first of three finals firing at 12:35 p.m., Gunlikson had just 50 minutes between his 300 hurdles and 100 dash finals. And again, just 55 minutes between the 100 and 200. So, what fueled his success in such adverse conditions?

“I wasn’t very confident in the hotel food, but I figured I’d have some eggs; I had some bacon,” Gunlikson said. 

That’s what it takes to be a three-event state champion — the first in Sweet Grass County High School history. 

Baker goes out on top

Not too often will you find a competitor as fierce and focused as Nathan Baker. So, when he stepped into the ring for his second-to-last discus throw of his career May 25 — in the finals section, too — he, too, was surprised when he nearly dropped the discus and his focus wavered. 

“Actually, I was watching Junior [Mosness] run the 400. When I got into the ring, Junior was starting the 400,” Baker said. “I started to wind up and I nearly dropped the disc because I was watching Junior run.”

It didn’t make him faulted, however, as Baker refocused and launched his personal best 149 feet, 6 inches to claim the silver medal in the Class B discus. But that’s the epitome of the Herders’ season: A striving ambition to be involved in each others’ events as much as they are in their own. 

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