Gisel Was Hutch’s 1st Women’s Track
National Champion, All-American
Another second-place finish just wouldn’t do for high jump standout Traci Gisel in 1982.
While in high school, the only person who beat out Gisel for a state high jump championship wound up setting a national high school record. As a member of the Hutchinson Community College women’s track and field team, twice Gisel finished as national high jump runner-up.
When the 1982 NJCAA Outdoor Championships rolled around, Gisel had a singular focus – a national championship.
“I wasn’t going home with anything, but the gold medal,” she emphatically said.
When Gisel captured the 1982 NJCAA high jump national crown, she became the first Blue Dragon women’s track and field athlete to win an individual championship. With her national title and two national runner-up performances in a Hutch uniform, Gisel was also a three-time NJCAA All-American, again the first in Blue Dragon women’s track history.
With that distinction, Gisel joins fellow Class of 2017 inductee Mariana Blum as the first female athletes to be enshrined in the HCC Quarterback Club Hall of Fame.
There is another first with Gisel’s enshrinement. She is also the first second-generation inductee. Her father, Dick Gisel, entered the Hall in 2015.
“When I was a young girl, I was considered a gym rat,” Gisel said. “I went to practice with my dad every weekend when he was the assistant. They had all the All-American certificates all along the hallway in the athletic office. I found my dad’s name on one of those certificates and I made a vow to myself to bring home an All-American certificate.”
Gisel admits to being fiery, competitive and very driven. Those traits that served her well at the 1982 NJCAA Outdoor Championships in San Angelo, Texas.
In order to claim that elusive national championship, Gisel had to endure one of the most physical and mental grinds she was ever put through as an athlete – a head-to-head jump-off for the gold medal. That jump-off lasted more than an entire hour in duration. More than 12 jumps at either 5-foot-8 or 5-foot-7 were required to achieve a conclusion to the high-stakes showdown.
“I don’t know how I got through that jump-off,” Gisel recalled. “I had to have a lot of coaching just to get through it because I never had gone through that kind of jump-off. It was one of those moments in life that I learned so much in one hour. I’ve applied that one lesson a million times in my left since then.
“I remember being so relieved that my first reaction was tears. My mom came running across the track and hugged me.”
Gisel cleared 5 feet, 8 3/4 inches en route to winning the 1982 NJCAA national championship. That is still Hutchinson’s outdoor women’s record and it’s been matched only once. Gisel’s indoor mark of 5-8 also remains a team record at the time of her enshrinement.
“It’s special that those records are still standing,” Gisel said. “I trained all year around and I had such great support. I had the instruction and opportunity and I was a dedicated, hard worker.”
Gisel credits her jumps coach, Steve Jones – who is still at HCC at the time of her enshrinement – with tremendous technical coaching in the high jump.
“He had three different tape measures, chalk and a protractor and he made the angle perfect for us,” Gisel said of Jones’ coaching technique. “We would put chalk on the bottom of our feet, so I would run a perfect J and he would methodically work out what our perfect approach was. He spent most of the time working on the approach and plant.”
Growing up with a father as a coach, Gisel trained for that day in 1982 from an early age. Her father built a high jump pit in the back yard when she was 10 years old. She had been competing in both the 400 and high jump since age 7.
“My dad would work with me in the back yard and by the time I got to middle school, I was out-jumping most of the girls jumping at the college,” Gisel said. “I was taught the Fosbury (flop technique) so early, that’s where I had my advantages over a lot of people. I was ahead of the curve.”
Her decision to attend Hutch was based on the Blue Dragons allowing her to be on both the track and basketball teams. She played basketball with the Blue Dragons for one season before training for track full time. Gisel also ran on Hutch’s 4x400 relay.
After Hutchinson, Gisel transferred to Abilene Christian University where she completed her career on the track and earned her BSED in secondary education. Gisel completed her Masters in Sports Administration/Sports Psychology at the University of Kansas.
Gisel spent 15 years as a teacher and coach in two Texas school systems in Arlington and Round Rock. She is currently working as an assistant director of athletics at University Interscholastic League (the Texas equivalent of the Kansas State High School Activities Association) and serves as director for Texas High School state championships for cross country, spirit, swimming and diving, girls’ basketball and track and field.