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Kacirek wins regional AOY award

Steve Yingling

To completely understand what kind of competitor Katrina Kacirek was during her stirring high school athletic career, consider what she did in her final basketball game.

Shortly after the start of a Nevada Class 2A semifinal against Needles in February, Kacirek left the game with what was believed to be a rolled ankle. Later, it was learned that Kacirek had suffered a series of ailments to the ankle, including a hairline fracture, severe sprain and tendon damage.

“By themselves, they wouldn’t have been too bad, but collectively they were major,” said Whittell High girls’ basketball coach Nathan Tolbert.

After getting her ankle taped, Kacirek courageously returned to the court. During her 3-minute absence, Needles built an 11-point lead.

Kacirek went on to score a team-high 17 points as Whittell crept within three points before losing 53-46 in its first state tournament appearance in 21 years.

“That was incredible. I don’t know if I’ll see that again … someone that mentally tough and willing to put in that kind of effort. She never limped,” Tolbert said. “If I’d known how bad it was, she never would have played again.”

For that tenacious performance and her contributions to a pair of state championships, Kacirek has been named the Sierra Nevada Media Group Female Athlete of the Year. Writers from the SNMG’s newspapers nominated athletes from their areas and then voted on their top choices.

“She’s the kind of person I like to be around,” Tolbert said. “She’s mellow and has a good attitude off the court and once she’s on the court she loves to compete. She set an example for the rest of team without saying any words.”

Kacirek was selected along with Galena High senior Cole Dowty as the SNMG’s athletes of the year.

“This surprises me,” Kacirek said. “I feel really proud and honored to have won this award, especially considering the competition from all of the other schools.”

Kacirek and Dowty each received a personal plaque and a $500 check. Earlier this month the three-sport star was chosen as the Tahoe Daily Tribune’s Co-Female Athlete of the Year for Whittell High School for the second straight year.

The series of injuries to Kacirek’s ankle during her final prep basketball game caused her to miss all but the final two weeks of the track and field season.

Still, Kacirek went on to finish runner-up to teammate Jessica Woods in the long jump at regionals and then jump ahead of her the following week to capture her seventh career state title.

Kacirek also was part of the first-place 4×100 relay team that won its second straight championship with a state-record time of 52.28 seconds.

More importantly, Kacirek and the Warriors repeated as 2A state champs.

Kacirek’s senior year began as expected as she played a key role in Whittell’s third straight state volleyball title. She was named to the all-state and all-Northern 2A League first teams.

Prior to her gritty state semifinal performance, Kacirek scored a game-high 26 points in leading Whittell to a 61-60 upset win over Battle Mountain in the regional championship. It was Whittell’s first Northern 2A girls’ basketball title.

With her high school athletic career behind her, Kacirek is preparing to attend the University of Oregon in the fall. She plans to major in biology to prepare for a career in forensic science.

Attending the Pac-10 school could mean the end of Kacirek’s athletic career.

“I may try and walk on the track team. If not, I’ll play intramurals or club sports,” she said. “It’s going to be weird. I don’t want athletics out of my life completely. It would be too depressing.”


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