Eagan sprinter Jake Gourley, his right leg aching, competed gamely at last spring’s track and field state meet but could only muster a sixth-place finish in the 100-meter dash.
That didn’t stop a teammate from ribbing him that his younger sister and fellow sprinter, Maddie, would score more points based on her top finishes in the girls’ meet.
‘‘I hope she will this year,’’ Jake responded at the time. “But it won’t happen again.’’
Two of Minnesota’s top sprinters, the Gourleys are at once proud sibling rivals and each other’s biggest fans. Maddie, a sophomore, posted three all-state finishes at state last spring. Jake, a senior, holds the state’s fastest marks this year in the 100 (10.59 seconds) and 200 (21.6).
The recent revelation of Jake’s comment drew a smile but no surprise from Maddie.
“This is his last year of high school track, and I’m sure he wants it to be his year,” Maddie said. “I’d be happy for him if he did [score more points at state], but obviously I want to do well, too.”
The siblings are aiming for big goals this spring. Maddie seeks to lower her school records in the 100 and 200 and take down the 400 record. Her best time is one-hundredth of a second off the mark. She wants to finish in the top three at the state meet in all three events and said, “By senior year I want to win one event, at least.”
Smashing the state’s 11-year record of 10.45 in the 100 is one of Jake’s goals. Another is going faster than 21.20 seconds in the 200. He yearns to become a state champion in either individual event or as part of Eagan’s top-ranked 4x200 relay team. He won all three events at the Hamline Elite Meet in April on the same track where the state meet is competed in June.
“I was happy for him because I know he wants to win state really badly,” Maddie said. “I want him to do as well as I want myself to do.”
Radiant performances at the Hamline Elite Meet helped ease Jake’s regret about two seasons hampered by injuries. A torn meniscus suffered in football required surgery right before his sophomore track season. Jake missed qualifying for state in the 100 by two-hundredths of a second.
He made the cut last year and finished sixth in the 100 at state despite acute right leg pain. Doctors later discovered a stress fracture. Brushing aside anything resembling an excuse, Jake said, “I’ve got a lot of fire this year knowing that in the past two years I had more to give. I need to get done what I feel should have been done a long time ago.”
Though inspired by what she called her brother’s “courageous” performance at state, Maddie also brings toughness to the track. She lost half of her eighth-grade season to an ankle injury but refused to let much else get in her way.
Accidentally cut while picking up a starting block at the South Suburban Conference meet last year, Maddie received medical attention but never lost focus.
“As she walked back to her lane, she had the look in her eyes that this 400 was going to special — and it was,” Wildcats girls’ track coach Rob Graham said. She won the 400 to sweep the sprint events.
Chris Gourley, who competed as a sprinter for Eveleth High School, said she and her husband, Brant, are thrilled to see their children sharing a special season.
“As parents it’s nice because you hate to see one of them up and one of them down,” Chris said. “We ask ourselves, ‘Will we ever get to see both of them happy at the same time?’ ”
‘You can’t be nice’
No one sees Jake and Maddie happy at the starting line.
“People tell me when I get in the blocks that I look mad,” Maddie said. “We both have this look we get when we block everything out.”
Said Jake: “Whenever I hear, ‘Warm-ups off,’ it just clicks in my head that it’s time to go. I’m done socializing with other runners. You kind of have to bring something else out of yourself and you have to get after it. It’s the first one to the finish line, and you can’t be nice about it.”
The Gourleys’ fleet feet owes to their tenacity in workouts and attention to detail. Former Gophers football player and track and field athlete Melvin Anderson, who runs the Track Minnesota Elite AAU club, refers to the siblings as “young professionals.” Unlike many Minnesota athletes, the Gourleys consider track and field their No. 1 sport and adjust their other sports to fit. Jake will run for Minnesota State Mankato next year, and Maddie has drawn some Division I interest.
Jake called his sister “fearless” on the track.
“The 400 is a monster and training for it is never fun, but she attacks her workouts,” Jake said.
Eagan coach Adam Copeland said Jake’s “teammates often comment how he trains like a beast.” Anderson said other AAU athletes dubbed Jake “The Hammer.”
Running down dreams
This track season is unique, Jake said, because until now his sister’s successes always outweighed his own. Years ago, Maddie even beat her older brother head-to-head.
“In second grade she was faster than he was as a fourth-grader,” Chris said. “His friends would ask her to race.”
Chris hopes to watch both her children chase their dreams at the state meet. Though cautious and unassuming, she is warming to the idea of a joyous ending.
“I always tell them, ‘If you get to state and get on the podium, you should be happy,’ ” Chris said. “But I’d love to see them win.”
Jake and Maddie feel likewise, wanting it for each other as much as themselves.
“The one-one finish at state — it’s definitely come up in conversation,” Jake said. “It’s been a dream ever since we were little kids. We’ve always been a little duo and this is the last year that it can happen. It’s looking pretty good so far.”