Jeff Kintner is a giant – 6-foot-4, a couple of good meals more than 300 pounds – with an equally large sense of what being positive makes possible.
And why not? In his time at Whitworth University, he’s played on football teams that won two conference championships and reached the round of 16 in the NCAA Division III playoffs, and twice climbed the awards podium at national track meets. He’ll try to make that three this week when he and seven Pirates teammates compete in the D-III nationals in Marietta, Ohio.
But it took something horrific to truly open up his horizons.
Last September, Kintner’s 17-year-old sister Sarah was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. For six months she underwent treatment at Children’s Hospital in Seattle, through debilitating lows and incremental gains, until dramatic improvement in her blood tests cleared her to go home to Wenatchee with parents Tammy and Mike on March 22. With the cancer in remission, the days gradually return to normalcy, and she plans to be back in school for her senior year in the fall.
“You never saw her, even during the worst of the chemo, with anything but a smile on her face,” Kintner said. “She was always in a good mood.
“You think about how you would do in that position and I don’t think I could handle it that well. She’s a special girl to fight through it like that.”
Of course, the fight takes a toll on families, too – even big, strong stoics like Kintner, who admitted to being “really distracted when it first happened.” But a weekend visit to Seattle when Whitworth played at Pacific Lutheran allowed him to “see how good she was doing mentally and how supportive my parents were and made me think, ‘This is going to be all right.’ ”
Kintner’s an improbable story in a different light. He attracted some early Division I recruiting interest in football that didn’t grow as much as he’d hoped, so he steered himself to Whitworth for the chance to have a more personal relationship with his professors and to tackle two sports – even though he was a 51-foot prep shot putter who never qualified for the state meet.
“I knew I wasn’t going to make a living in athletics – as hard as it is for any athlete to realize that,” said Kintner, a bio-chemistry major.
He’s earning his keep at Whitworth. An all-Northwest Conference offensive tackle on the football team, he’s twice won the NWC shot put title. Fourth at nationals last year and third indoors in March, his best of 55-43/4 is No. 3 on this year’s D-III list – though this time he’s one of three Pirates in the seasonal top 10. Michael Nahl, another football moonlighter, has reached 53-3, and Danjuma Quarless is up to 53-81/4.
As a point of reference, 280 Division I schools sponsor track and field – and only 12 have three 53-footers on the roster. More than half a dozen Division I conferences can’t rustle up as many as Whitworth throws coach Gary Baskett has developed.
“He knows so much, it’s unreal,” Kintner said. “He can turn anyone into an All-American if you give him enough time.”
Sean Coyle bounced from a redshirt year at Washington State last spring to the Community Colleges of Spokane – but hasn’t taken a step back. In fact, the Central Valley grad is the national junior college leader in the 3,000-meter steeplechase – the race he’ll run, along with the 1,500, at the NWAACC championships beginning today at Spokane Falls.
And yet Coyle’s school record of 9 minutes, 9.15 seconds run at the Oregon Twilight two weeks ago was a disappointment to him.
“I was ready to run under 9:00,” he said. “But we had a couple of professionals in the race, guys a bit older and capable of running 8:20-8:40. They took it out really fast – and the whole field went with them. I don’t have the base training to hold on to that kind of pace.”
Coyle said he expects to have his A.A. degree either by the end of the summer or fall terms, so he could be headed back to another four-year school – but isn’t sure he wants to leave CCS.
“I kind of feel my time isn’t up here yet,” he said. “I feel like I’m part of something special.”
The aging process
Washington State scored a modest 13 points in the four women’s throwing events at the Pac-10 championships – but they came from four freshmen and a sophomore. The weekend’s surprise: a 13-foot improvement in the discus for West Valley grad Ashley Kenney.
It helped make up for some of the inevitable growing pains the kids – and throws coach Debra Lombardi – suffered through earlier in the season.
“(Head coach Rick) Sloan kept asking me when it was safe to take me off suicide watch,” she said.
Two area athletes managed to punch tickets to next week’s NCAA West Regional in Eugene with the automatic berths awarded conference champions: Idaho’s Josh Dalton in the WAC 800 and Eastern’s Steven Praast in the Big Sky high jump. EWU’s Michelle Coombs also qualified by winning the javelin. … Colville grad Caitlin McGrane will compete in the D-III nationals heptathlon for Puget Sound, while Lewis and Clark’s Ellie Siler (400) has made the field for the NCAA Division II nationals for Western Washington. … Whitworth junior middle-distance runner Emmanuel Bofa was named the Division III West Region’s men’s track athlete of the year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Whitworth’s Baskett was named assistant coach of the year by the same group.