WHS, STHS few on numbers, but big on opportunity
Whittell and South Tahoe high schools are short on athletes for this weekend’s Nevada 3A and 4A State Track and Field Championships in Las Vegas, but don’t rule them out coming away with several titles.
Bob Linkul, shot put and discus; Erin Zaskoda, triple jump and 300 hurdles; Karin Kaleta, triple jump; and Luke Forvilly, long jump, comprise Whittell’s state contingent, while the Vikings are sending Jake Hurwitz, 100-meter dash; James Clemmer and Dawn Hock, high jump; Matt Arzio and Jeff Cosmi, 800 meters; and Cosmi and Arzio will team with Manuel Lomeli and Grant Carter on the school record-setting 3,200-meter relay team.
“We finished the season with 16 healthy athletes and (injured) Sarah (Sufka), and I don’t think we could have asked for any more than we got from them,” said Whittell coach Dan Makley. “In my eyes, this is like their reward. They’ve gone through one of the most difficult seasons I’ve ever experienced, but they made it through, worked hard and they get rewarded with a trip to Las Vegas.
“I hope each of the kids can get a medal, but the most important thing is to try and get their personal records.”
Brown’s seven-member team left Thursday for Las Vegas to avoid the normal hustle and bustle that accompanies leaving the day of the meet.
The veteran Viking coach believes sophomore Hurwitz and junior Clemmer have definite opportunities to place high. The Southern Nevada zone champion won the 100 in 10.96 seconds and second place clocked in at 11.21, meaning Hurwitz enters state with the best zone time at 10.80.
“He’s right in the hunt. We knocked off .9 of a second in his starts, making a few adjustments. So we’re excited in that asepct,” said Brown, who hasn’t allowed Hurwitz to clock himself this week. “We’re trying to save a little excitement for Saturday.”
Also, without the pounding his knees and feet normally take in the triple jump, Hurwitz should be fresher and stronger for his 100-meter final.
Meanwhile, Clemmer, who leaves the ground like a rubber ball hitting pavement, is within striking range in the boys high jump.
The first-year high school high jumper’s progression has been dramatic considering he opened the season without any formal training. He leaped 5-8 to finish third in his first meet and since then has been near the top of the heap. He won the zone title last Saturday by bounding 6 feet, 4 inches – his personal best.
Brown is optimistic about Clemmer’s chances.
“The high jump winner from the South went 6-8 and the next three guys were 6-6, so I think James has a really good opportunity to do something special that hasn’t been done in a while,” Brown said.
T.J. Durham is the last Viking to win state in the high jump, hopping 6-8 in 1994. But “High Jump High” won state titles in the event in 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991 and 1992. In fact, the Vikings’ Bryan Barton owns the state record (1983) at 7-0.
“I believe 6-8 is a good goal. Until I get 6-6 or 6-7, though, I can’t say anything. But 6-8 is going to be my goal,” Clemmer said.
Arzio and Cosmi have an outside chance in the 800 meters. The Vikings finished three and four at zone, but the Southern champ won with a time of 1:55.
“We were just trying to qualify. This week, we’ll worry about winning,” said Arzio, who revealed that the 800-meter race is the most difficult athletic endeavor he’s tried. “It’s the hardest event in track because it’s right there between a sprint and long distance.”
Carter and Arzio are fortunate that the 800-meter race is Saturday, and their relay race is set for Friday night. Even though they knocked off 11 seconds from the school record (8:28) to place second at zone, they’ll be really pressed this week since the South’s winning zone time was 8:08.
Hock, a senior, also has a decent chance to medal, according to Brown.
“The South’s top girl jumped 5-4 and the next three were at 5-0, so she has a good opportunity there, too,” he said.
For Whittell, all four dedicated athletes are in position to walk away from Las Vegas with medals around their necks.
Linkul, who placed first in the discus (150-6) and second in the shot put (42-6), demonstrated in practice this week that his late-season success should continue. He uncorked a toss of 156 feet in the discus this week during practice.
“We measured it because it was so far out there,” Makley said. “He’s ready. He’s going to do very well.”
Linkul, who finished second at state as a junior, will compete for Mesa Junior College next spring. He’ll double his workload, adding the javelin and hammer to his arsenal.
After wiping out the field in the zone triple jump, Kaleta and Zaskoda should be in the medal hunt.
“Karin may hit the board this week and then we may see another huge improvement,” said Makley, referring to the trouble Kaleta had with her steps at zone.
Zaskoda shocked Makley by qualifying for state in the 300 hurdles (50.92), chopping two seconds off her best time in the process.
“That was the miracle I was looking for. She has a chance to go under 50, which is our goal for this week. She’s been focused on not chopping her steps to the hurdle, and she is fit enough to run in the 49s, and that should put her in the medals,” Makley said.
Forvilly, only a sophomore, long jumped a personal-best 20-10 to win his first zone title. Makley wouldn’t be surprised to see him add another championship this weekend.
“He’s carrying a lot more speed on the runway this week. If he gets more speed and more height, Luke might do something really big,” Makley said. “He’s a competitive kid who comes on strong when it counts.”
The meet opens at 4:30 p.m. Friday and continues at 3 p.m. Saturday at Durango High School.
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After more than 70 years of operating with a term deemed derogatory by many Native Americans, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has changed its name to Palisades Tahoe.