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Fall sports teams persevere despite grim funding forecast

Jeremy Evans

Even though qualifying for the Northern 4A playoffs is nothing special for the South Tahoe High volleyball team, coach Gary Hankoff isn’t taking anything for granted.

He realizes there might be a time when the Vikings will be eliminated before the season even begins.

“I really don’t see how sports are going to survive here,” Hankoff said. “I don’t really see how it can continue. There are some really amazing people with STAT but I just don’t see how it can sustain itself year after year. I mean, they’re trying to raise a lot of money.”

Doom and gloom aside, Support South Tahoe Athletic Teams has been directly responsible for the success of this past season’s fall sports teams. Without the fund-raising group, the Vikings probably wouldn’t have qualified for the post-season in all nine sports for the first time in recent history.

No team was more successful than the girls’ cross country squad, which won the Nevada state championship and finished 17th in the nation at the Nike Team Nationals in Portland, Ore.

“How can you put a value on sports?” said coach Dan Wilvers. “I know there a lot of people who undervalue it. But it’s a real life experience, more so than the classroom. These kids learn how to compete, how to push themselves, how to win and lose. They learn how to handle adversity. How can you put a value in that?”

But the cross country team wasn’t the only one that can thank STAT. The South Tahoe boys’ soccer team was ranked No. 12 nationally at one point this season, the highest national ranking in school history in any sport. Meanwhile, the girls soccer team advanced to the Northern 4A semifinals for the second time since 1996.

“Sports has always been about more than wins and losses,” said Chris DeLeon, the Vikings’ boys soccer coach. “Speaking from a soccer perspective, a lot of these kids wouldn’t even have an incentive to go to school if it wasn’t for soccer. It teaches them responsibility. It’s like a job. You have to show up on time and people count on you. All this helps these kids contribute to society.”

The STAT program said it is $30,000 shy of meeting its $200,000 goal by Jan. 14, the amount needed to fully fund all spring sports. Before tonight’s boys’ basketball game between South Tahoe and Bishop Manogue, STAT will hold a presentation to acknowledge all those who have donated money this season and also inform those in attendance of the problems that remain for spring sports.

The fund-raising group held a golf tournament in October that helped raise enough money to fund all winter sports, some of which are also experiencing some early success. The Vikings’ boys basketball team is off to an 8-2 start after winning just four games all of last season.

“Mark Garratt and Peter Grant have done such a good job over there at STAT, as have the 150-200 other people who have helped out,” DeLeon said. “If there weren’t any sports, I think you would see a lot of people moving out of the basin, more than there already are. It would be a sad day for this community.”


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