Sufka on right track at Azusa Pacific |

Sufka on right track at Azusa Pacific

David Gignilliat, Tribune Staff Writer

Sarah Sufka’s days of running in the hallways at George Whittell High School are numbered. The concrete, sun-splashed ovals of Southern California will be her home soon enough.

The senior three-sport star accepted a partial scholarship Monday to run track and field for Azusa Pacific next season.

“I was thinking about it and praying about the whole situation a lot. I’m really excited and I’m thinking about it like this is where I should be,” said Sufka, the defending Nevada state champion in the 800-meter dash.

Predominantly a middle-distance runner, Sufka will compete in 400- and 800-meter events for the Los Angeles-area school. Her times in the 400 (60.3) and 800 (2:23) – recorded in Lake Tahoe, 6,200 feet above sea level – should make her very competitive with the rest of her team.

She originally visited the small Christian school hoping to catch the eye of Azusa volleyball coach Gerry Gregory, but the Cougars could only offer the five-foot- setter a shot at a walk-on spot. Fortunately, Sufka’s times in the 400 and 800 caught the eye of Azusa track and field coach Kevin Reid, who once coached in the Carson Valley.

“For such a long time, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do,” said Sufka, who plans to major in sports psychology and enter the school’s honors program. “It’s nice to make this decision before track season even starts. It’s a big relief and I’m really looking forward to this season.”

Sufka played three sports for Whittell, logging 12 varsity seasons with the Warriors. In addition to track, Sufka sauntered around the hardwood as a dependable setter for the school’s volleyball team. For the girls basketball team, Sufka was a steady rock at point guard, an excellent shooter and an accomplished, focused defender. Sufka, the Warriors’ 1998-99 hoops captain, translated a solid senior season into the school’s career points record with 940 points. She broke the previous record by nearly 200 points.

“It’s just a classic example of hard work and dedication. Sarah trains hard year-round no matter what sport it is and it’s paid off for her,” said Whittell girls basketball coach Lindsay Wines, one of Sufka’s many supporters. “In every aspect of her life, she’s a tremendously dedicated and tremendously hard-working individual”

Wines was not alone in her heady praise.

“I’m very happy for her,” said Whittell track coach Dan Makley, who has coached Sufka for three seasons. “It was her goal to go to a small Christian college, and she gets to do that. She wanted to stay in sports, and she gets to do that, too. It turned out real well for her.”

Sufka said she is looking forward to her studies at Azusa, one of the few universities offering a degree program in sports psychology among the schools she was considering. Sufka traced her interest in the field to a brief period of self-doubt before last season’s track and field zone championship when she met with a local sports psychologist.

“I really started getting into it right before the (1998) zone championship. I started feeling just a little down mentally,” Sufka said. “We just talked about all the things that I need to relax and focus on. I just started thinking I want to be there for an athlete and help them reach their goals.”

Sufka will be the first Whittell student-athlete to receive a sports scholarship since Lauren Maselli signed to play volleyball for Rhode Island in 1993. And don’t be surprised if she makes the very most out of what seems to be a golden opportunity.

“Once Sarah gets down there and has some good competition day in and day out, I wouldn’t be surprised if she does some great things for that school,” Wines said.

Name: Sarah Sufka

Height: 5-4

Year: Senior

Sports: Volleyball, Basketball, Track & Field

Accomplishments: – Whittell’s career girls basketball scoring leader (940 points)

– defending Nevada sate champion in 800 meters; third in states, 400 meters

They Said It:

“The best personal memory I had was winning state (last year) in the 800. It was incredible feeling to know that I actually accomplished it. It was a big spiritual experience in my life.” – Sufka

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