South Tahoe High should have held prom in Las Vegas
Images of South Tahoe High sprinter Jake Hurwitz dashing and hurdling through the Las Vegas airport like O.J. Simpson in an old Hertz Rent A Car commercial come to mind.
Luckily, the STHS sophomore didn’t need to use his sprinting shoes after he bolted from the Nevada 4A state track and field championships Saturday night. He rushed home to keep a prom date at the Horizon Casino Resort.
That’s right, a scheduling gaffe meant that Viking state qualifiers in two sports had to find their own way back to Lake Tahoe on Saturday night if they wanted to attend their school prom.
Once the Nevada state 100-meter finals concluded at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, the race was actually only beginning for the Northern Nevada zone 100-meter champion. The prom was scheduled to start at 9 p.m., and the last flight from Las Vegas to Reno left McCarran International Airport at 6:20 p.m.
“We made the flight by about 15 to 20 minutes and it helped that the flight was 10 minutes late,” said Jerry Hurwitz, Jake’s dad.
After arriving in Reno, the Hurwitzes rushed back to Stateline to keep their son’s promise. Jake’s date was waiting for him when he walked through the Horizon doors, but he still needed to change into his tuxedo.
“It was hectic. He was out there by 9:15, so he was fashionably late,” Jerry Hurwitz said. “We told him if there was any way in god’s green earth to get him there, we’d get him there.”
To STHS’s credit, Athletic Director Frank Kovac rented a room for Hurwitz and any other Viking state competitor desiring to change and clean up before returning for the prom Saturday night.
“When you’re 16 years old, what’s more important – a prom or state championship? You shouldn’t have to weigh that at 16?” Jerry Hurwitz said.
Hurwitz was one of seven Viking track stars who qualified for the Friday-Saturday state meet at Durango High School in Las Vegas. None of the qualifiers elected to skip state to make their prom plans run smoother.
Zone high jump champion James Clemmer competed on Saturday, so he was able to comfortably return on Saturday morning to keep his prom date. The other Viking state track qualifiers passed on the prom, along with Viking swimmers Denise Bogard Kristi Collins, who competed in their state championships Saturday in Las Vegas.
Kovac, who schedules school activities and athletic events, tried to arrange the prom for early June, but the Horizon couldn’t accommodate the school. Instead, STHS was given its second choice – May 22.
“They are so accommodating for us. It was a huge success,” he said. “With AP tests going on and so many factors to consider, it happened to fall on the date when state for swimming and track happened to be in Las Vegas.”
Kovac met with the track and field team prior to zone to review travel plans. The school generously allowed the team to depart a day before the meet and return on Sunday.
“They still needed to qualify for state at the zone meet,” Kovac said. “Any other accommodations they were going to make, that was their responsibility.”
In most cases, schools rarely overlook athletes. They are routinely given preferential treatment. But in this case, STHS obviously overlooked their spring athletes. By shear luck only nine student athletes were affected. But what if the Viking baseball and softball teams had reached the state finals? Those games were also played on Saturday.
“I think the biggest problem with all of that was the distraction it caused. Once the kids found out it conflicted with state, there was confusion among some of them of ‘Do I go to the prom or not?’ From a coaching standpoint, it’s unfortunate that there has to be conflict between extracurricular activities at this level,” said Viking track coach Rick Brown.
Obviously, STHS isn’t the only high school that has experienced such disastrous scheduling conflicts. Whittell High track coach Dan Makley said the conflict repeatedly arose during the postseason while he was coaching the Douglas program.
“It used to drive us crazy. I can’t understand why they can’t coordinate the schedules. One year it was big disaster at Douglas. Luckily it wasn’t state or zone, but all the kids were bailing out early in order to get to the prom. We were defeated by the prom,” he said.
“Whittell has always done it in June when all the sports are over. It’s brilliant. If they change it, everyone should riot,” he joked.
Makley said there is another option.
“If they scheduled the prom in April, if you’re going to miss a meet, it’s not going to be critical. To put it during zone, division or state is not right. It’s an impossible situation,” he said.
Sadly, Jake Hurwitz, one of the prerace favorites, returned home on Saturday night without a coveted state title. He was disqualified for prematurely leaving the starting blocks. Imagine how tough it was for him to go to the prom that night – and that’s excluding the race home from Las Vegas.
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