Track and field deserves a better fate | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Track and field deserves a better fate

Steve Yingling

There continues to be very few townspeople in the right places who care about track and field.

It’s a shame because it’s a sport we should embrace and nurture like skiing and snowboarding.

This hideous neglect persists even though no more of an authority than the U.S. Olympic track and field team showed the South Shore in 1968 what a jewel it possessed living at high altitude.

For those not familiar with the 1968 U.S. track and field team, it trained at Echo Summit on the now dilapidated track surface that rests at South Tahoe Middle School. No other U.S. track and field team has been more successful in the Summer Games than the one that trained at the gateway to our town.

With that unparalleled history, you’d think track and field would be the No. 1 sport for middle and high school students in the area. It might be if the schools reciprocated appreciation of the sport.

What happened with the elementary school races recently reflects what has been going on for years between Douglas County and Lake Tahoe Unified school districts.

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Whittell recently turned down Anthony Davis’ proposal to run a meet for area fourth- and fifth-graders on June 7 at Whittell. Whittell said “no” because it didn’t want the grade-school children to ruin the field for graduation. Unless these kids would be packing their classroom scissors to the meet, how could they trash the field for graduation?

South Tahoe High hasn’t been any kinder to its track and field athletes. The Vikings haven’t hosted a meet since the early 1990s. Their annual “home” meet is usually 45 minutes away in Carson City.

For years the school district said it didn’t have the money to repair the facility at STMS. Now, it really can’t spare the cash since students will pay a fee to play each sport next school year.

Luckily, some educators and citizens grew weary of the school district’s apathy and began raising money for the project themselves. Led by Ken Griest and Karin Holmes, Track Renovation Four Community and Kids is determined to return the facility to its previous condition.

Community members can assist with the $590,000 project by making a private donation and/or participating in A Legendary Run on May 15 at Lake Tahoe Community College. TR4CK hopes to begin restoration of the track during the 2007-08 school year.

Despite the obstacles that South Tahoe and Whittell track and field athletes face, they are producing some eye-popping performances this spring.

Breaking the school long jump mark has become a broken record for Whittell junior Katrina Kacirek. At last check, Kacirek’s record was at 17 feet, 11Ú2 inches.

Next month, Kacirek and her talented teammates should bring home the school’s first girls’ state track and field championship. Of course, very few people know how talented this team is because the Warriors, like the Vikings, have no intention of hosting a meet. I wonder if there has ever been a team to win a state track title that didn’t host at least one meet during the season?

Who wouldn’t mind venturing out to STMS and watching Kelsey McClurg run the mile? Earlier this year, the sophomore ran it in 5 minutes, 14 seconds.

The school also possesses one of the best hurdlers in the state in Corey Vermillion – not that many of us have had the opportunity to watch him compete.

If a university someday offers any of these athletes a track and field scholarship, they can thank their coaches. Making these athletes the best they can be without the resources other school districts have is testament to the creativity and perseverance of STHS coaches Dan Wilvers and Melissa Berry and WHS’s Brian Rippet.

Who knows what these coaches can do for their athletes when they have a genuine facility to train them on.

– Tribune Sports Editor Steve

Yingling can be reached at

(53) 542-8010 or

syingling@tahoedailytribune.com

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