Coming off a sweep in the shot put and discus at last week’s Class 4 District 8 track meet, Fort Osage’s Courtney Gapelu is excited about the prospects of a return trip to the state championships.

Coming off a sweep in the shot put and discus at last week’s Class 4 District 8 track meet, Fort Osage’s Courtney Gapelu is excited about the prospects of a return trip to the state championships.

But, before Gapelu can punch her ticket to Jefferson City, she has to first take care of business at Saturday’s sectional meet at Blue Springs South High School. After tossing the shot put 38 feet, 8 inches and the discus 123-10 at the district meet at Park Hill, Gapelu has as much chance as any athlete in the respective fields.

“I’m feeling really great,” Gapelu said after practice Friday at Fort Osage. “I think I should place to go to state. I’ve been working hard.”

The hard work has paid off quite nicely for the Fort Osage senior. A state qualifier last season in the discus, Gapelu figured this season that the event would be her strong suit. It is her throws in the shot put this year, however, that has caught the attention of college scouts, including the coaching staff at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau.

“I think the shot put is (my strong point), but I like the discus better,” Gapelu said without hesitation.

The Red Hawks have offered Gapelu a full-ride scholarship to join the team in the fall.

“I’m thinking about it,” Gapelu said. “It’s hard to turn down a full ride. That’s a lot of money.”

Fort Osage girls head coach J.D. Snead said the program is excited about the prospects of Gapelu possibly throwing at Division I Southeast Missouri next season.

“I think that Courtney has really developed as a thrower,” Snead said. “We’re excited about the scholarship offer. After the season’s over, she’s going to go down there and talk with them and hopefully that will be a good fit for her and she can go on and have the success at the collegiate level that she has had here.”

Assistant coach Brant Peterson said the Indians have high hopes for Gapelu at the sectional and possibly state meets.

“Courtney is interesting in that she throws very well, but has the possibility of really throwing  big because she is so strong,” said Peterson, who coaches the Fort Osage throwers.  “But, I’d rather the big one come at state.”

Gapelu’s friend and teammate, Elaine McAlister, a junior who placed second at districts in the shot put with a throw of 36-7, said competing with Gapelu has made both better throwers over the last couple of seasons.

Practices are like meets, McAlister said, and the meets are, well, gravy on the top, she added.

“I’m proud of her,” McAlister said. “We both have been trying our hardest and I think it is all paying off at the end. It’s like we compete against each other every meet. It’s cool to have a teammate right there beside you.”

Gapelu said having McAlister as a teammate has definitely pushed her to become a better shot putter. McAlister qualified for the state meet last season in the event, but this season Gapelu has come on strong in the shot.

“I like it,” Gapelu said of the Indians’ 1-2 finish in the shot put at the district meet. “I don’t have to worry about – I feel like if it’s another school, I have to step it up – but if  it’s like (McAlister), I would encourage her to get first and I’d get second. But, knowing she is right behind me, I don’t have to worry about another school coming and getting first or second.”

Snead has seen the duo push each other as well.

“One of the things about those two girls is that they kind of feed off each other,” Snead said. “Courtney has really come on strong this year, which has kind of pushed Elaine. I think as they get to the (sectional) meet, they’re going to feed off each other.

“If Courtney steps up and throws big, I think Elaine will follow. I think that it’s nice to have multiple athletes in an event to practice together and push each other. We expect big things from them (Saturday).”