Small school seeks big impact
It’s a small team, but some prefer it that way.
Whittell High’s track team won’t blow anyone away with its numbers. But the Warriors still have a handful of athletes who can blow the competition away on the track and over the jumps in Northern Nevada 3A field events. The Warriors return bookend state qualifiers in senior Erin Zaskoda and junior Luke Forvilly, both of whom triple jump, long jump and run hurdles. If the squad can find some zone qualifiers among the team’s up-and-coming runners, jumpers and throwers, Whittell’s postseason representation could be, well, big.
“I think we’ve got some kids who should make it,” said first-year Whittell coach Brian Rippet.
Rippet, who takes over the program Dan Makley left last year, has only three seniors. But a Warriors dozen of freshman boys have swelled the ranks of Whittell’s program to 27.
“Every day, we’ve added more and more people, so we’re kind of starting to get a positive vibe about track through school, and that’s what I’m kind of excited about,” Rippet said.
That excitement should translate to the blacktop, where sophomore Ben Johnson – who barely missed qualifying for state in both the 800- and 1,600-meter runs – joins Forvilly and Zaskoda to give Whittell a core group of potential state qualifiers.
“I just want to leave my mark,” Zaskoda said. “I just want to go out and have fun, work hard, make the best of it.”
If Zaskoda leaves the mark observers feel she’s capable of leaving, she may leave the school with Whittell’s triple jump mark. Zaskoda and graduated Karin Kaleta one-upped each other throughout the season, and Coletta left the school as the owner of the record at 33 feet, inch.
“I think we just kind of encouraged each other,” Zaskoda said of last year’s challenge within Whittell that left her slightly behind at 32-5. “Personally, I just jump for me.”
Zaskoda considers the triple jump and 300 hurdles her best events after finishing first and third, respectively, at zone in those two disciplines last year. She also plans to add the long jump and 100-meter dash.
Similarly, Forvilly considers the long jump to be his best event, but plans to compete in the high hurdles, 200, 100, high jump, triple jump and maybe the 400 by the end of the season.
“I think this year I’ll be able to do well in four or five events,” said Forvilly, who finished second at state in the long jump last season.
“I liked it last year, because I got second,” he said. “That was good.”
Also, like Zaskoda, Forvilly won’t be able to showcase all his versatility until he feels better. Forvilly had his tonsils taken out earlier in the month, but is recovering. Zaskoda injured an ankle during indoor track season, and said it feels almost better, if it looks a little bigger than normal.
Combined with senior Matt Miller, Whittell’s best thrower, and Jahna Rico, the two returning state qualifiers help provide leadership for the team. Rippet planned to have Rico run the 100 meters and the mile at Whittell’s first meet today at Yerington, and find a distance for the senior between the two extremes.
Johnson leads Whittell’s core of male distance runners and is a favorite for a spot on the 4×800 team, along with the top three of either Jarret Guajardo, Argenis Flores, Brian Beebe or Chris Arbollo. Miller and Warnick give Whittell experience in the shot put, and junior Chauncey Lane will put the speed that befuddled Nevada 3A football defenses to work as a sprinter and long jumper.
Junior Kim McGlothlin is Whittell’s best female distance runner, and she impressed Rippet with her stride in practice. Freshman Nick Gant appears to be the budding track enthusiast in the group and has made an impression with his eagerness.
While spring weather – i.e., snow – has kept track practice at Whittell low-key recently, Rippet will have a much better idea of how to allocate the skills after this weekend. Whittell begins its season Wednesday with an open meet at Yerington, then travels to Fernley on Saturday, for a meet where the Warriors will see most of the state’s 2A and 3A powers.
“Between the two of those meets, we want to get them in as many events as possible so we see how their marks stand up,” Rippet said.
But having a little team doesn’t mean Rippet was thinking small when drawing up the schedule. The Warriors will travel to both the 4A Reed and Carson invitationals. And before spring break, a meet in Dayton will provide Whittell with a glimpse at the rest of the division.
After all, zone is where a small team can make itself seem very big.
“It’s good in the sense that we have good, fresh, eager talent, but the 30 percent of the team that’s upperclassmen, they’re the die-hards,” Zaskoda said.
Whittell Warriors Track
Coach: Brian Rippet, first year; assistants Scott Forvilly, Frank Fovrilly and Jerry Lundegren
Key athletes: thrower Matt Miller, senior; sprinter/distance runner Jahna Rico, senior; jumper, sprinter, hurdler Erin Zaskoda, senior; jumper, thrower, sprinter, hurdler Luke Forvilly, junior; distance runner Ben Johnson, sophomore; distance runner Kim McGlothlin, junior
Coach’s key: “Every day, we add more and more people, so we’re kind of starting to get a positive vibe about track through school, and that’s what I’m excited about,” Rippet said.
Opener: Today at Yerington
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