In the 1960s TV sitcom, "Get Smart," secret agent Maxwell Smart would utter his now-famous catchphrase, "Missed it by that much," whenever he came up shy on some job-related task.
The same statement could also describe Bloom Township senior runner Gina Narcisi's performance at last season's Class 3A sectional cross country meet.
In that particular race, Narcisi was the highest local finisher, placing 34th in a time of 19 minutes, 29 seconds. As credible as that showing was, though, it still left her three positions short of grabbing the final state-qualifying spot.
An identical situation had occurred for another Blazing Trojans runner five years earlier, when Janina Roche — then a Bloom sophomore who is now competing for Olivet Nazarene University — also missed out on a trip to Peoria by three places. Roche bounced back to become a state qualifier as a junior.
Narcisi hopes to follow a similar path to glory this fall. To her credit, she made no excuses for last season's near miss.
"I overlooked and over analyzed things, so I wasn't prepared going in," Narcisi said. "But then (after the race), I realized every little second counts."
Learning experiences have been a part of Narcisi's competitive running career since the beginning, which surprisingly was only four years ago. She participated in cross country as a freshman largely because she viewed it as a good way to prepare for soccer in the spring.
Narcisi said finishing the three-mile events was initially a great challenge, but one issue that never presented itself was stopping during the races.
"Running requires heart and I learned that (quickly)," she said. "I knew if I was stopping, I was giving up, so I've always put it in my mind to keep going."
Narcisi eventually developed a passion for running, which prompted her to quit soccer this past spring and join Bloom's track team. Her inaugural season included a mixture of highs and lows — while she won the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at the Southland Athletic Conference meet, she missed state qualification in the longer race by just one spot and 17 seconds.
Despite Narcisi's failure to advance to Charleston, Bloom's boys' track coach Andrew Schmitt feels she can take the momentum gained on the track and carry it over to cross country courses this fall.
"Gina's made lots of improvements in running and competing," said Schmitt, who has also taken over for Huey Johnson as boss of both of the Blazing Trojans' cross country squads. "She's been learning about pace and being a winner. She can also be more cerebral in her races (now in terms of) planning for them."
Narcisi agrees with her coach's opinion that her track successes and the knowledge she acquired while competing in that sport will pay dividends as the fall progresses. Her main goal, in addition to qualifying for state, is to break 19 minutes.
"I learned (in track) that I have the capacity to do it," Narcisi said. "We trained hard (during the spring) and I'm learning how to work and hurt and be successful.
"Track requires toughness, and I hope to take that into the new cross country season."