Highland's Giger is track co-athlete of the year

News-DemocratJune 27, 2014 

IHSA Girls State Track Finals

Cahokia's Daisha Townsend (left), Highland's Lena Giger (center) and Normal University's Gabi Jacobs celebrate on the award stand for the class 2A shot put during the 2014 IHSA Girls Track and Field State Finals at O'Brien Field Saturday, May 24, 2014, on the Eastern Illinois University campus in Charleston, Ill. (STEPHEN HAAS)

STEPHEN HAAS/SPECIAL TO THE NEWS-DEMOCRAT

— When Highland senior Lena Giger walked into O'Brien Stadium in Charleston for the start of the Class 2A state track and field meet, she had two goals in mind.

A two-time state champion in the shot put, Giger was gunning for a three-peat and also wanted to throw the shot put farther than any other Illinois high school female athlete ever had.

But on this day, Giger had to settle for being a state champion.

"Dani (Daniella) Bunch of Mahomet-Seymour actually has the overall state record of over 51 feet and I really wanted to break that record or at least go over 50 feet. It just wasn't to be,'' Giger said. "To win three straight state titles, I don't know if it can get much better. This season wasn't as good as I would have hoped distance-wise.

"But I don't think I have a lot to complain about.''

Struggling a bit with her form while also battling painful shin splints and a sore right knee, Giger still managed a throw of 45-feet, 6-inches on that hot May weekend.

Combined with a winning toss of 47-9 1/2 as a junior and championship effort of 43-5 as a sophomore, that almost put Giger in the same class as recent four-time state shot put champions Kelsey Card of Carlinville and Emmonnie Henderson of Edwardsville.

Giger's win also marked the fourth straight year an athlete from the Mississippi Valley Conference has won the Class 2A shot put state title. Elizabeth Hampl of Triad won the 2011 state championship, while Giger placed third as a freshman.

Undefeated against high school competition for the second straight year, Giger's third straight state title earned her the honor as the Belleville News-Democrat co-Track and Field Athlete of the Year. She shares the recognition with Cahokia freshman Mariya Hudson.

Co-caladictorian of Highland High School's class of 2014, Giger's future is secure.

She will compete for Stanford University, where she will study international business with the hopes of attending law school after graduation.

Classes begin in late September at Stanford, but Giger is still training and competing while enjoying her final summer at home before entering the world of NCAA Division I athletics.

"I'm really excited about it and I'm looking forward to starting college in the fall,'' Giger said. "It's a long way from home. I think the longest I've been away from home is like 15 days, so yes, it will be an adjustment. I'm sure I'll call home a lot.

"I really haven't thought about it (leaving home) much yet. Maybe when my summer (track) season concludes, it will hit me. Right now, I'm just training, working hard and competing."

Giger also is training to throw the hammer, an event that is still fairly new to her, but one she has quickly mastered with the help of her coach and former Southern Illinois University Edwardsville standout Ben Bishop.

Competing at a meet last week in Ohio, Giger had a throw of 185-8, a mark which was nearly 5 feet longer then her previous best (181-0).

In order to qualify for the world junior championships later this summer in Eugene, Ore., Giger must throw 187 feet.

This weekend Giger is in Bloomington, Ind., and will travel to Eugene, Ore., for the U.S. Junior Championships, July 5-6. A throw of 187 feet at either event would get her into the world finals.

"It's still fairly new to me, but an event which I've picked up quickly and doing pretty well in,'' Giger said. "Plus working with Ben (Bishop) is great and I've really learned a lot. I'm going to throw both the hammer and shot put in college, so having the chance to compete in these national and world championships is a great experience.''

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