Sierra Sun’s female athlete of the year from North Tahoe High School | Kelsey Wittels
Jon Rockwood, head coach of the North Tahoe girls’ soccer team, thought long and hard when asked to speak about his standout sweeper.
He wanted to be sure he chose the right words to best describe his most valuable player and team leader and#8212; and the Sierra Sun’s female Athlete of the Year from North Tahoe High School, Kelsey Wittels.
and#8220;Let’s see,and#8221; he said, pausing to think. and#8220;I definitely want to speak accurately on this one, because Kelsey was such a standout player.
and#8220;Her skill and knowledge of the game are incredibly deep, and she was just an incredibly versatile player,and#8221; Rockwood began. and#8220;Her soccer skills really speaks for itself. Anyone could watch a soccer game and see that she knows her way around the field and knows what she’s doing. She plays a great game. But what someone might not see is what she does behind the scenes. She was just an incredible leader. All the girls looked up to her.and#8221;
The recently graduated senior and#8212; one of 13 valedictorians from North Tahoe and#8212; also stood out on the slopes, where she excelled for the Lakers’ state champion alpine ski team, as well as on the track, where she returned with success her senior year after a four-year hiatus.
and#8220;She hadn’t ran track since the eighth grade, and when she got on the track it seemed like she didn’t miss a beat,and#8221; said Skip Piechocinski, head coach of North Tahoe track and field. and#8220;She ran any (event) you wanted to put her in, and she especially excelled in the hurdles. But she’d try anything. She has that go-getter attitude.and#8221;
Scott Everist, head alpine ski coach for the Lakers, couldn’t agree more about Wittels’ competitive, and#8220;go-getterand#8221; personality.
and#8220;She had a great stance on her skis and she was really quick, and she was not afraid to charge it. She has the right attitude,and#8221; Everist said. and#8220;It was hard to tell Kelsey to hold back a little bit sometimes. She really goes for it.and#8221;
That aggressive racing style often paid off, as Wittels captured the individual state title in giant slalom while tying for the overall title her junior year. She finished fourth in the GS as a senior to help lead her Lakers to the Tahoe Basin League state championship.
and#8220;She was our team captain, and she’s just been a solid kid the past four years,and#8221; Everist said. and#8220;She always made sure everyone was out there, and she was one of our best skiers. And she always had a smile on her face. Besides those things, she was just a sound all-around skier. We’ll miss her, for sure.and#8221;
In track, the speedy Wittels participated in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and the long jump and high jump events. She fared well at the Northern 2A regional meet, where she narrowly missed the state cut in both the 100 and 300 hurdles despite setting personal records.
and#8220;She was great and fun to be around. She was special. I just wish we had her all four years,and#8221; Piechocinski said. and#8220;Great kid, great attitude. She always had a smile on her face, and she loves to compete.and#8221;
But really, it was the soccer pitch where Wittels truly shone.
A four-year varsity player, North Tahoe’s sweeper was voted All-Mount Rose League Defensive Player of the Year by opposing league coaches. She made the second team in All-State voting, yet she easily could have been selected to the first team had her Lakers played into the state tournament where the voting took place.
and#8220;She was such a versatile player. She could play striker, she could play midfield and obviously she could play defense,and#8221; Rockwood said. and#8220;She (mostly) played sweeper, which is a demanding position that involves a lot of pressure and leadership, and she filled it just incredibly.
and#8220;Her physical skill was there,and#8221; the coach continued. and#8220;She grew up playing soccer. But what really separated her from other naturally talented players was her mental toughness. She didn’t let setbacks affect her. I was really impressed with her ability to focus. She always had her head in the right place.and#8221;
Rockwood said Wittels was nearly as valuable off the field, too, as she organized pick-up games, helped design the Lakers’ warm-up uniforms and coordinate team car washes and dinners, and and#8220;was always in touch with everyone on the team.and#8221;
and#8220;There was absolutely no division. Everyone looked to her for advice,and#8221; Rockwood said. and#8220;When given a lot of responsibility, she could handle it. As a coach, it was great to have a player like that.
and#8220;North Tahoe soccer is going to miss Kelsey Wittels, for sure.and#8221;
Wittels plans to head south in the fall to attend UCLA.