Gaddis returned in tremendous fashion, getting four gold medals in winning the 110 hurdles, the high jump, the 4x400 relay and the 300 hurdles.
"I was very pleased with how I did today. For four years I struggled, just wanting to be the best and I knew I had the stuff to be IVL champion. I just needed to rise above my own goals," said Gaddis. "I think the difference between this year and last year is maturity. I knew that if I wanted to improve, I'd have to be dedicated and work out a lot more and just practice harder. And it takes a lot of maturity to want to do that."
Gaddis knows he wouldn't have been able to accomplish everything he has without help.
"I definitely have to give a big heartfelt thanks to my coaches (Ron Shane and Bob Gaede) and to my mom (Julie). Especially my mom. She's always been there for me and has really been an asset not only to me but to this team," said Gaddis.
"For all the younger athletes and everyone competing, I just want them to know that if they want to be successful, they should set their goals so high, that it may not seem like they'd be able to reach them," said Gaddis. "That way you always keep reaching for those goals and you want to keep getting better and just try to rise above the goals you've set."
What drove Gaddis at the IVLs were the goals he set, but for Southwest High's Rashauna Amos and Calexico High's Melany Hernandez, what pushed them to be the best was each other.
All season both were two of the best in the 100 and 200, but they didn't face each other when their teams met earlier in the year. So Thursday's IVL meet was their opportunity to test themselves against the best.
In the 100, Amos bested Hernandez by a little over a second, winning in 12.36 seconds, ahead of Hernandez's 13.47.
But it was in the 200 where the two pushed each other to the limit. Again it was Amos winning, this time in 27.74, slightly better than Hernandez's 27.87.
"It was tough. There was a lot of competition in those events, especially with (Rashauna)," said Hernandez, a junior. "I was really nervous at first. But after those first few meters I started feeling better. We had some good races and even though she won, I was happy with how I did."
Said Amos, a freshman who also was a member of two winning relay teams: "I was nervous because I knew (Hernandez) was going to be out there. I was actually a little worried because I knew how good she was. But if anything, having her out there kind of pushed me. She pushed me to do even better."
For Brawley Union High's Brandon Wellcome, the meet also was a chance to take on the best. And in this case, Wellcome was the best and everyone was gunning for him as he went undefeated in league in the discus and shot put.
Despite the target on his back, Wellcome persevered, completing a perfect IVL season by winning the shot with put of 45 feet, 4 1/2 inches and the discus with a 127-10.
"I really felt a lot of pressure out here. There's a lot of talent from all the schools and I knew that I had to perform," said Wellcome, a senior. "But it wasn't just the other guys in the events, it was also knowing that I'm a senior and that this was my last chance to go to CIF. That was my main goal today, just qualifying for CIF."
The IVLs were mostly about getting a chance to qualify for the CIF San Diego Section postseason.
A competitor needed to finish in the top two to qualify for CIF, which will conduct its preliminary event at 4 p.m. May 17 at Valley Center High School. At the prelims, the top eight in each event will advance to the Masters in Poway on May 24.
Just like Wellcome, CIF was one of the only things on the mind of his Brawley teammate Marco Torres, who qualified for the postseason with wins in the 400 (52.23) and the 800, in which he narrowly beat Southwest's Devon Hood, finishing in 2:10.59, ahead of Hood's 2:10.96. Entering IVLs, Hood had been unbeaten in the 800.
Despite competing in one of the closest finishes of the day, all Torres could think about was CIF.
"I'm really looking forward to CIF. I know there's going to be even tougher, better competition there and I think that's going to help me do even better," said Torres. "I think that's the way it always is. You do better against better competition. That happened today and I know that will happen at CIF."
For complete meet results see Scoreboard on B3.