It’s a bird, it’s a plane; no, it’s Hurwitz
At first glance, bespectacled South Tahoe High senior Jake Hurwitz could be mistaken for an Internet surfer or obsessive reader.
But send him to the locker room, not a phone booth, to remove his glasses and Hurwitz transforms from Clark Kent into Superman. He’s not faster than a speeding bullet or locomotive, but over the past four years Hurwitz has established himself as the fastest prep runner in Northern Nevada.
That speed, and some nice blocks, helped Hurwitz win consecutive Northern Nevada 4A rushing titles in football and back-to-back regional 100-meter dash titles and establish school records of 10.84 seconds in the 100 and 22.21 in the 200. For those efforts, the humble Hurwitz has been selected the Tahoe Daily Tribune Male Athlete of the Year for South Tahoe High.
“It’s good to know that I’m among the top athletes in Northern Nevada. There’s a lot of competition and a lot of good athletes,” Hurwitz said.
In a year of high expectations for the football team, Hurwitz did more than his share in leading the Vikings to an 8-3 season, their best since 1991. He rushed for 1,444 yards and won the league rushing title for the second straight year. But he realizes his success was predicated on the skills of many.
“We came back with the same offensive line and that helped a lot,” he said. “With Jarred Uppendahl throwing the way he was throwing and the receivers like Immanuel Williams, Ryan Hickey and Jerry Seeley, it was easy to find openings because the teams had no one to key on.
“And it became fun because it wasn’t repetitive anymore. We had so many (plays) that we could do at one time, it never got boring.”
But one play in the zone semifinals at McQueen gave Hurwitz a case of “What if?” baggage to carry around for years to come. On his third rush of the game, Hurwitz stretched tendons in his shoulder, and the “stinger” didn’t go away until two weeks later. He left the game and never returned as the Vikings were run off the field, 69-21.
“I regret not being able to play in the last game,” he said. “It almost felt like I was letting the team down by not being able to play because I’d always been there for them and they counted on me.
“It’s one of those things you think about every day and probably will for the rest of your life.”
What made it harder was that Hurwitz thought the Vikings could have upset the eventual state champs. When Hurwitz was hurt the Vikings were driving at the McQueen 40 with the score tied at 7.
“It was hard because they are a talented team, but we were so prepared for them,” Hurwitz said.
His football coach, Tim Jaureguito, concurred.
“It made a huge difference not having Jake,” said Jaureguito, who resigned after the season. “It took away 75 percent of our offense, and coach Mac (Todd McIntyre) had different formations where we thought we had a really good shot of getting him in the open field.”
And everybody knows what Hurwitz does once the game becomes a footrace.
“Once he got into the secondary, he was gone, but he wasn’t afraid to run through people either,” Jaureguito said.
The latter quality is something that Hurwitz learned after coming to the program as a first-time player.
“Early on, I thought he was soft and didn’t have the mental intensity you had to have to play that ace back,” Jaureguito said. “I think he realized that and he became tougher, and I don’t think that’s an easy thing to do.”
Once a one-dimensional breakaway runner, assistant coach Bill Tinlin strengthened Hurwitz’s skills by adding a forearm blow and spin moves to his repertoire.
And to think that Hurwitz almost didn’t give track and field a fair shot.
“He never ran track before high school,” said former STHS boys track and field coach Rick Brown. “He wanted to practice with the baseball team while he was figuring out what he wanted to do.
“I had no idea who he was. To me, he was this freshman who was in my way. The rest is South Tahoe High history.”
That is, after Brown convinced the Hurwitzes to purchase some track shoes for their son.
“He ran his first meet in basketball shoes and he still ran faster than most of the varsity runners,” Brown said.
Hurwitz didn’t realize his sprinting talent until he came to STHS, because he was home-schooled and then attended Saint Theresa School, which didn’t have a track program at the time.
“I never thought I could run that fast,” he said. “It was a big uplift when I realized I had the speed to win races.”
It wasn’t long after Hurwitz put on the correct shoes that he started his first varsity meet. From then on, he brought notoriety to a track program that has rarely been known for its sprinters.
Hurwitz won back-to-back 100-meter dash titles at zone as a sophomore and junior. However, McQueen standout athlete Chris Carr thwarted Hurwitz’s three-peat bid this spring by overtaking him over the final five meters.
“When Jake went by me at 90 meters I was already starting to sing three-peat,” Brown said.
Brown thinks Hurwitz either eased up or misjudged the finish line.
“There were a few times when he’d lean two or three meters before the finish line, thinking he was already there,” said Brown, noting that Hurwitz preferred to race without his glasses.
Hurwitz went on to finish a respectable fifth in the state 100 for the second year in succession.
“He has matured so much since last season,” Brown said. “His work ethic improved, and he became a practice runner as opposed to a competition runner. His first three years he didn’t like to practice.”
Hurwitz’s next move is anybody’s guess. Brown wants him to pursue track and field year-round, while Jaureguito believes that the 20 colleges (Notre Dame included) that requested football film on him shouldn’t have been scared off by his 5-foot-9, 160-pound frame.
“I don’t think he’s tapped into what he really can do. I think if he concentrates entirely on track, he’s going to surprise himself,” said Brown, who believes Hurwitz would be best suited for the decathlon.
“There are guys out there just as fast as Jake, but they are bigger,” Jaureguito said. “Looking at it from Jake’s standpoint and his family’s, I’m sure it’s very frustrating and very disappointing. But you never know, something may fall into place for him yet.”
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“Let Them Play,” rallies are taking place across California with a mission to bring back high school and youth sports.