Track and field a spectator-friendly sport

Sylas Wright
Former NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham watches his daughter, Vashti, compete at the Nevada track and field state championships in Carson City.
Steve Puterski / |

Every four years the Summer Olympics captivates the world with some of the most ancient sporting events in human history, namely track and field. We marvel at the speed, endurance, jumping and throwing ability, and overall athleticism displayed by the elite gathering of competitors.

But the sport does not need the grand stage of the Olympic Games or the world’s best athletes to entertain. A day at the Nevada track and field state championships in Carson City last week confirmed as much.

Confined by deadlines and spread thin trying to cover multiple communities, I simply do not get off the hill to attend track meets. But this year, the state championship meet took place a reasonable commute away and featured some serious contenders among my three coverage schools, Truckee, North Tahoe and Incline. An appearance was justified.

Even before reaching the track, the announcer’s booming voice echoing over the loudspeaker brought back glory-day memories of old. Once reaching the stadium, the classic sights and sounds of a track meet — the pop of the starting gun, the excited cheers of encouragement — sent a rush of adrenaline through my veins. The place stirred with electricity. Yet the organized chaos of it all had a soothing effect on this sports-loving soul.

The young athletes were impressive, particularly our mountain kids, who earned multiple state titles throughout the two-day event. Perhaps no one drew as much attention as Randall Cunningham Jr. and his sister, Vashti, however. The brother-sister duo from Bishop Gorman High School — the children of former NFL great Randall Cunningham — dominated the Division I jumping events.

Hundreds of onlookers crowded against the fencing to witness their potential record-setting performances, clapping in unison to help urge them on. Included in the mass was Randall Sr., who, despite a graying head and well-fed belly, still looked like he could hurdle an ensuing NFL defender. The apples didn’t fall far from the tree.

Vashti won both the high jump and long jump, setting a state record in the high jump by clearing the bar at 6 feet, 1 inch — 2 inches higher than the previous record — and winning the long jump with a stadium record of 18-10.25. Randall Jr., who set the state high jump record of 7-03.25 in last year’s state meet (the world record is 8-00.50), cleared 6-11 to take the title. He was second in the long jump with a leap of 22-08.25.

Meanwhile, Wooster’s Alexis Romero put on a show in the Division I girls pole vault competition — an event I had never witnessed live. What a dynamic event. With supporters cheering her on, she broke her own state record set last year, of 12 feet, 7.25 inches, by catapulting her body up and over the bar at 12-08.00.

With any luck, our schools will host track meets in the future, allowing local sports fans the opportunity to check out the exciting action first hand. Incline already has taken the first step, as the Highlanders received a new all-weather track last fall. Megan Lade, head track coach at Incline, said the Highlanders hope to begin hosting meets by 2015. I look forward to it.

— Sylas Wright is sports editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza. He may be reached at

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