Katrina and Woods: Champions in every sport
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of four stories honoring the high school athletes of the year at George Whittell and South Tahoe:
By Jeremy Evans
Tribune staff writer
Katrina Kacirek was one of the best jumpers in the state in 2005 and helped then-sophomore Jessica Woods with technique in both the triple jump and long jump. Woods used her friend’s advice and proceeded to win the state long jump title, finishing in front of second-place Kacirek, who was a junior last year.
“It’s funny because Katrina basically taught Jessica how to long jump last year and Jessica ended up beating her at state,” said WHS track coach Brian Rippet. “Katrina wasn’t fine with it, but she knew it was her teammate and she was happy for her. This year, it was reversed because Katrina won state in the long jump.
“There are a lot of similarities between them. They like to compete. But seeing them around, you would not know they are anything, other than being silly.”
However, once they step onto an athletic venue, their competitive spirit takes over. That drive resulted in Woods and Kacirek being named the Tahoe Daily Tribune’s Female Co-Athletes of the Year for Whittell High School.
“I think it’s pretty cool because we have so many good athletes at our school,” Woods said. “I feel privileged. It’s going to be tough to do what we did this year again because we have so many talented seniors leaving.”
During the 2005-06 school year, Woods and Kacirek won state titles in volleyball and track, and also led the girls’ basketball team to its first regional title in more than two decades. In all, the duo combined for 10 regional and state titles.
In volleyball, Woods was named the Northern 2A and Nevada 2A co-MVP along with teammate Kelly Karmann. Woods already holds the school record for most kills in a career (876) and ranks third all-time in Nevada history in that category, according to NIAA record books.
Kacirek was just as dominant, having been named first team all-state and all-league. She holds the state record for most aces in a career (205) and won her third career state title in volleyball, helping the Warriors to a 30-7 record in 2005.
“The only way you can describe them is remarkable,” WHS volleyball coach Dan McLaughlin said. “They are tremendously gifted physically, but what makes them so special is how hard they work. They can outjump you. They can outquick you. But they’re not content with that and they work harder than anybody you’re going to find.”
Coming off an impressive volleyball season, Kacirek and Woods made an easy transition to basketball. They both averaged double-doubles and helped Whittell win the Northern 2A regional title and advance to the state semifinals.
Kacirek led the team in scoring at 14.4 points per game and was second on the team with 10.2 rebounds per game. Woods, meanwhile, averaged 12.4 ppg and led the team with 10.7 rpg.
Both players displayed their versatility by averaging three steals per game, and Woods also developed into an imposing shot blocker. At 5-foot-8, she averaged 2.3 bpg and had seven blocks against Quincy and a combined 12 blocks in league wins over Battle Mountain and Lovelock.
Even with her impressive numbers, Woods quickly realized how much she needed her running mate.
When Kacirek went down with a knee injury midway through the season, the Warriors went 0-5 in games without her. When Kacirek returned, Whittell regrouped and went on to win the regional title.
“Having the two of them as my forwards just made it a whole lot easier on the guards,” said WHS basketball coach Nathan Tolbert, whose team went 18-8. “You have to double-team one or the other. Whoever teams didn’t double was my go-to player. But they weren’t arrogant. They weren’t cocky. They smile until the tip of the ball, and then they want to beat you.”
That competitive spirit trickled over into the track season.
Woods won state titles in the 100-meter hurdles, the triple jump and ran one leg of the Warriors’ state-record setting 4×100 team. Kacirek, who missed most of the spring with tendinitis, came back to win state in long jump and also ran one leg on the 4×100 relay team that helped Whittell win its second consecutive team state title.
“Third-time state champs in volleyball, zone champs on basketball for first time in 20 years, then state champs again in track … it couldn’t have been a better senior year than that,” said Kacirek, who won seven individual state track titles in her career.
Kacirek said she will attend the University of Oregon next season but hasn’t decided if she will play sports. Woods, though, will return to the Warriors next fall, poised to dominate again.
“They are both natural athletes,” Tolbert said. “They can do anything they want. I’m sad to see Katrina go, but I’m happy that Jessica is coming back to us next season.”
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