Whittell earns 7 zone track titles | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Whittell earns 7 zone track titles

Michael Traum

SPARKS – There were tears of joy – and pain. In the heat of a summer-like May afternoon, Whittell and South Tahoe high school’s zone track and field competitors experienced the gamut of emotions Saturday at Reed High School.

Whittell’s Sarah Sufka led the list of Warriors who had nothing short of stellar performances. Eight athletes from the school earned a combined seven zone titles, with the sophomore winning the open 400 and 800 runs while anchoring a school-record effort in the girls’ 1,600-relay.

“It’s exciting to have seven zone titles for our little school,” Sufka said. “I’m so proud of everyone.”

Senior Mark Witte grabbed an unexpected win in the triple jump, soaring 41 feet, five inches, a personal best by more than four feet.

“My whole high school career flashed in front of my eyes while I was standing on the runway before the event. Of everything I’ve ever done, I’ve always wanted to be a champion. It’s an amazing feeling,” Witte said.

The Warriors also saw the other side, as hurdler Zach Denson just missed qualifying for state in the 300 hurdles, finishing third. The girls’ 400 relay team also missed a state chance, finishing third.

Denson, a senior, talked through watery eyes about the lost opportunity.

“I had it the entire time. I just lost it in the last 100 meters,” he said.

Other winning Warrior performances included Bob Linkul’s personal best in the discus of 140 feet, 2 inches; Karin Kaleta’s 4-10 high jump (she’d never competed in the event before this season); and Jordan Trim’s open 400 in 53.94. Skye McEntire, Nicole Wasson and Ashley McClure took the relay with Sufka.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time and could see it coming, with all the hard work they’ve put in,” said Whittell coach Dan Makley. “The nicest thing about track is you get what you deserve. Give all the credit to the athletes. They’ve exceeded what they thought they could do but haven’t exceeded what they’re capable of. It’s been a very satisfying year.”

Emotions were thick for South Tahoe, as the Vikes experienced super highs and lowly lows in the triple jump event. Senior Elliott Hubler won the zone title with a jump of 45-2. On the flip side, Jeff Seitz saw his prep career crumble as his badly injured hamstring finally gave out during his final qualifying attempt. The senior collapsed on the approach, never making the pit, and was visibly upset as he collected his gear and exited the infield.

“If it were fashionable for a grown man to cry, you would have seen me take these sunglasses off,” said dejected South Tahoe coach Rick Brown. “It’s a bad way to end four years of hard work for such a gifted athlete. But I told him, ‘Hey, stuff happens.’ I just hope Jeff realizes that his best years are ahead of him with a college uniform on his back.”

Hubler was dealing with conflicting emotions following his win and the collapse of his longtime friend and training partner.

“It means a lot to win it. It shows that hard work pays off,” he said. “But I don’t know what to feel right now. I was praying Jeff would make it. If anyone deserved it, it was him.”

Tahoe’s Faye Clapp qualified for the state meet in the 300 hurdles, finishing third with a time of 47.85.

All qualifiers will compete in the Nevada 4A state finals next weekend at Reed High.

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