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June 11, 2014

Climbing the ladder: Gutish skips memorable weekend in TH for X Games

Terre Haute North graduate finishes career-best third at X Games

TERRE HAUTE — Did Rachel Gutish feel bad that she missed the IHSAA girls track and field state finals Friday after she had qualified in the pole vault?

Absolutely.

Did the Terre Haute North athletic standout feel bad that she missed her high school’s graduation ceremony Saturday?

Ehhh, not so much.

“I wasn’t really torn up about it,” admitted Gutish, who had already fulfilled her academic requirements at North. “I was more upset for my mom. She was kinda disappointed that I didn’t go.”

The reason she skipped these potentially memorable moments in her life wasn’t for something silly.

On Friday, the same day as the track state finals, the 18-year-old Gutish was competing against several adults in their 20s in the Women’s Enduro X motorcycle race as part of the 2014 Summer X Games at Austin, Texas.

When the dust settled, she placed third, earning a bronze medal and topping her sixth- and fifth-place finishes from 2012 and 2013 respectively.

The race was shown tape-delayed on ESPN.

ESPN announcers made note that Gutish, who drove a KTM 250F as a member of the FMF/RPM/KTM Racing Team Maxxis, was running second in the early stages.

“Normally starts aren’t my strong suit, but I pulled off a really good one this time,” she noted. “I didn’t have any miscues until the end. But on my last lap, I heard a bike coming from behind me. I could tell it was a more powerful one than mine.

“Coming into the last straightaway before the finish, she was pulling up right alongside me. It was Chantelle Bykerk [who was in fourth place]. I knew that if I let off at all, Chantelle would most likely pass me. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to hit the jump at the end. So I just held the throttle on and plowed directly into the center of it [striking plenty dirt and a big tire that was part of the course].

“On the bright side, since I had already finished, it didn’t matter that much. But I got a face full of tire. I was a little disoriented after I got up.”

Gutish described the course as “faster and had more jumps” than the typical EnduroCross race.

“You know that’s pretty standard for the X Games,” she continued. “With the X Games, you know it’s going to be more jumpy because the audience likes to see a show. Knowing it was going to be more like that, we spent a lot of our practice time focusing on jumps and I think that paid off.”

After completion of the Men’s Enduro X race, Gutish was called to the awards podium with women’s winner Kacy Martinez of Sunol, Calif., and runner-up Sandra Gomez Cantero of Madrid, Spain.

Not surprisingly, all sorts of emotions ran through her mind at that moment.

“I was just so happy and amazed that I had finally made it because I had been trying for a long time to earn an X Games medal and I just couldn’t believe that I had finally done it,” Gutish told the Tribune-Star. “My face was definitely hurting from smiling so much.”

She also earned some cash for her efforts. Declining to specify how much, Gutish stated: “In X Games, you stand to make a considerable amount of money. For the rest of the races, at least for the women, there isn’t a whole lot of money in it.”

Then on Saturday, when North’s graduation ceremony took place, Gutish and her family (including parents Andy and Michelle Gutish) started driving back to Terre Haute from Texas.

Although Gutish had texted North girls track coach Mike Dason on Friday morning to wish the Patriots good luck in the state finals, she didn’t learn how they did until she read the Tribune-Star’s website Sunday morning.

Gutish doesn’t plan to rest for a while. She’s already entered a long-distance race in Ohio that will take place this weekend. Her next EnduroCross Series race will be June 21 at Sacramento, Calif.

“I’m a title contender for the EnduroCross Series so I’d like to think I have a chance of winning the 2014 championship,” she said. “We’ve got seven races left [this year] and you have to be at all of them if you want a chance of winning the series.”

Looking ahead, perhaps into her 20s, Gutish acknowledged that winning the Summer X Games race would be at or near the top of her list of long-range goals.

Considering she was the highest-placing teenager Friday, that seems realistic.

I I I

Even though Gutish missed Friday’s track and field state finals in Bloomington, that doesn’t mean she’ll be avoiding the pole vault in the future.

In the fall, she’ll become a student-athlete at DePauw University in Greencastle, where she’ll join the women’s track team. Her major is undecided for now, although she mentioned that she’d like to attend law school someday.

“The main reason [for selecting DePauw] is I wanted to continue my pole-vaulting and continue my racing as well,” explained Gutish, who had discussions with NCAA Division I schools before going with the Division III university within easy driving distance of Terre Haute.

“The racing is what’s most important to me, but I still love vaulting.”

She also pointed out the quality of DePauw as a school as another reason.

“I feel like education is what you put into it, not necessarily where you go,” Gutish added. “And I figured if I went to a Division I school to vault, they wouldn’t let me keep racing.”

DePauw track coach Megan Daw, who recently finished her second season on the job, is pleased to be able to add Gutish to her roster. The Tigers compete in the North Coast Athletic Conference.

“We think she’s really going to add to our team,” Daw said. “I’m excited to have her. Our whole coaching staff is.”

The Tigers’ coach believes Gutish will be “a difference maker on our team” right off the bat.

“She’ll have a chance at our pole-vault school record early on,” Daw predicted. “I would say sometime during her four years here, she should be a national contender.”

Gutish admitted she’s still trying to figure out her pole-vaulting aspirations.

“I think I have a shot at making [Division III] nationals,” she said, “but I haven’t really set any goals yet.”

One might wonder, what will happen if Gutish has a motorcycle race and a track meet scheduled on the same day during the 2015 season?

Daw provided the answer.

“There will be conference meets and national meets where we expect to have Rachel at,” she emphasized, “but we understand the rest of her schedule will need to be flexible.”

Gutish won’t be the only former Terre Haute North athlete on DePauw’s track team. Just completing their freshman seasons with the Tigers were Sarah Fears (women’s 4 by 100-meter relay) and Cameron Stewart (men’s hurdles).

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