STHS baseball, track programs need a helping hand |

STHS baseball, track programs need a helping hand

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

Early in the 1990s I made the mistake of criticizing then-South Tahoe High baseball coach Todd McIntyre for the Vikings’ struggles on the diamond.

While teams all around them were practicing and playing during spring vacation, McIntyre’s team members went their separate ways to enjoy their weeklong break from school.

Given the resources McIntyre had at his disposal to operate a baseball program, he deserved a vacation. South Tahoe needs to take a closer look at the baseball and track and field programs and provide them with more of a competitive chance in the future.

The baseball team only won three of 23 games, losing handily to the Northern 3A’s Dayton twice — a club that didn’t even qualify for the postseason.

Meanwhile, the track and field team is sending two individuals and two relay teams to the regional finals Friday and Saturday in Reno. That’s a big letdown considering the high-altitude training edge we have in Lake Tahoe.

Their downturns in 2003 aren’t reason to consider scrapping spring sports in these budget-strapped times. Rick Brown and Reve Ramos directed those teams to successful seasons in the past and it can be done again.

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What baseball and track and field coaches need is the same helping hand afforded the softball team. Although softball coach Rich Barna wasn’t able to play a home game until the final week of the season, his Vikings now have the luxury of working out at the twin Field of Dreams at the school instead of commuting to Tahoe Valley Elementary School.

Barna’s 2003 softball team only won two games by forfeit, but his Vikings are at least in better position to make a run at a postseason berth in the future.

How many schools do you know that must travel across town to get to their practice facilities? The Viking nine waste 45 minutes to an hour each day just trying to get practice started.

“It’s an inconvenience for us,” said STHS junior infielder Bryan Engler. “We come late to most practices because we can’t get there in time from the high school.”

The school doesn’t transport the players to Todd Fields for practice after school. Players must find rides with teammates who drive. That’s a liability issue you would think Lake Tahoe Unified School District would eventually like to eliminate.

“On game days the other team arrives before us,” Engler said.

That annoying commute gives coach Doug Russell and his players all the more reason to stay home and practice in the gym.

“It’s tough to coach any spring sport,” said STHS Athletic Administrator Jack Stafford. “We’re just challenged by our geographical location and our climate. I give those kids going out for any spring sport my heart-felt admiration.”

STHS should give one of the fields to the baseball program and develop a plan to clear those fields with snowblowers prior to the season. Stafford said bringing any snow removal equipment onto those fields has to be OK’d by Steve Morales, LTUSD facilities director, as well as Steve Weiss of the city of South Lake Tahoe Parks and Recreation Department. The city maintains the fields for the school district.

“The Babe Ruth fields don’t drain all that great and it’s tough to get equipment on them,” Stafford said.

Stafford hasn’t heard anything from Russell, Wilvers and Melissa Berry about their coaching intentions for next season. If Russell has had enough of coaching in a climate-challenged area, there are many solid candidates to return Viking baseball to respectability.

Track coach Dan Wilvers and freshman girls basketball coach Mark Shehadi have commandeered numerous successful youth baseball teams. Don Amaral, who has directed Whittell to four straight zone playoff berths and a 2001 state title, has made a career of accepting challenges no one else wants.

But to be successful they need to find a way to get their teams on the field more often.

As for the track and field team, the Vikings haven’t hosted a Northern Nevada League meet since Brittany Spears was in grade school. There have been plans to resurface the track at South Tahoe Middle School, but for now the team is in the same boat as the baseball team, scattering after school to make a 3-mile commute.

The track’s original home — Echo Summit — might be an easier commute considering the traffic on Lake Tahoe Boulevard after school.

Seriously, the school eventually needs to bring a track to school grounds. That well-manicured football field looks awful lonely.

— Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or