Cancellation of South Lake elementary meet causes dissension

Steve Yingling
Sun News Service

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE ” A decision to call off an elementary school track and field meet Tuesday afternoon caused a flap between Lake Tahoe Unified School District Superintendent Jim Tarwater and local track and field promoter Anthony Davis.

Tarwater decided to call off the South Shore Elementary Track Classic at the Community Youth Sports Complex after an unsettled weather pattern dumped heavy rain on the area and caused periods of thunder and lightning.

“It was raining like crazy all day and it was cold, and we’re talking about third-, fourth- and fifth-graders,” Tarwater said. “It had to be called with the prospect of more rain coming in. It was not good conditions for a track meet. I don’t want kids falling on a wet track; it’s not a safe environment.

“Those are our kids, Lake Tahoe Unified School kids. It’s not like it was a sanctioned track meet.”

Four LTUSD elementary school, as well as Zephyr Cove, St. Theresa and Diamond Valley in Woodfords were slated to take part in the four-hour meet.

Davis was upset that Tarwater decided to call off the meet without consulting him first. Both sides tried to contact one another but didn’t talk directly until afterward.

“It was a false start. He had no right to cancel my meet,” Davis said. “I understand that he’s the superintendent, and his responsibility is the safety of the kids, but, hey, I’m looking out for them, too. I’m not going to do anything stupid. He didn’t take the consideration to talk to me first.”

Davis thought the meet could have gone on even if the track surface remained wet.

“They said it was too slick. The track was dry, and it’s not the old track anymore. That’s why we got a new track. I’m lost. It’s an all-weather track,” Davis said.

Tarwater said he made a final decision at 2:37 p.m. so parents could be informed about picking up their children after school.

“They had to know as they were leaving the schools. There was no way we were going to be able to contact that many parents,” he said.

Tarwater was also concerned about squeezing the children and their parents into the multipurpose room during the meet if the rainy weather continued.

By 3 p.m., an hour before the meet was scheduled to start, the skies had cleared, but another cell of rain briefly moved into the area around 5 p.m.

The meet was revived last year, a year after a new track and field was built at South Tahoe Middle School. A makeup date for the meet doesn’t appear likely since Davis assumed the meet would happen because the facility now has an all-weather track.

“We have 362 athletes entered in this meet. We have no other window,” Davis said. “We might offer something at one of the summer all-comers’ meets. But it’s not going to be the same with the school spirit and the war paint. Kids have qualified to run in this meet. That’s what it’s all about.”

Davis stands to lose concession money. Several volunteers made the trip from Reno to help with the meet, and one parent traveled from Antioch, Calif., to watch her son compete.

“It broke my heart,” Davis. “I feel bad for the kids who weren’t able to run. To the community, the student athletes who trained for the meet and the teachers and parents, the only thing I can say is I’m sorry.”

Tarwater says he understands what the meet means to Davis and the community.

“I like somebody who has passion for sports,” he said. “On the other hand, it’s my responsibility. Those are Lake Tahoe Unified kids. Was it appropriate to cancel? I felt it was.”

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