Kelly Walters wasn’t at his usual place or pace as his North Central boys track team took on Mead last Thursday afternoon for the Greater Spokane League championship.
Walters started at the top of the bleachers at Mt. Spokane, moved to the bottom row where he recounted his ordeal and finally made his way across the field to the backstretch, where he watched the Panthers whip his Indians.
Walters’ pace, far from his usual careening from event to event, was dictated by having three stents placed in his heart on Tuesday.
“I felt OK until Mead started racking up points,” he said. “Then thought I needed to go back to hospital.
“Blame it on my father. We’re all our father’s fathers and we have a long history of heart disease. None of the males before dad (Hall of Fame Rogers coach Tracy Walters) made it past 60. He had a quadruple bypass 17 years ago.”
While providing those family details this week, Walters was at home, laid low by a back problem.
“I can’t run or bike. It’s really frustrating,” the fit 50-year-old said. “I’m really a mess.”
The timing couldn’t be worse with the District 8 track meet starting this afternoon at Spokane Falls Community College.
It’s also not the first time Walters has been in the hospital for heart issues. Just more than a year ago he had a stent for a blocked artery – which he said embarrassed his wife, a dietician.
Now he’s just hoping there are no surprises, with his health or at the track, as NC begins the process of going for a fourth straight 3A championship.
“We’ve got the kids,” he said. “If they compete well, we have the potential to make another run at it.”
Paula Jennings was a volleyball player who dabbled in track, throwing the shot put 41 feet, 8 inches last year and placing in the State 4A meet with a 38-2¾ effort in the driving rain.
Then came an anterior cruciate ligament injury at the start of her senior year at Central Valley, when the 5-foot-8 outside hitter landed from a jump and heard a pop in her left knee.
“It was painful not to play my senior season,” said Jennings, who was considering a volleyball future at a small school.
Then came the spring. Despite severe limitations she has been a competitive thrower and now sees that as her future.
“We had no real expectations of her,” Bears coach Dennis McGuire said. “But she was real quick to come back.”
With a five-step approach in javelin and no lateral movement allowed in the shot put, Jennings has reached 120 and, just recently cracked 40 feet again – both before getting officially cleared for full movement last week.
“Throwing 40 feet on one leg, there is no doubt I can reach 42,” she said. “I want to throw 130 (in the javelin) at district or regional and 140 at state. I’m a lot more confident now. … What has been really helpful is all my coaches had confidence in me all year.”
Whether she throws at a two-year or small four-year school, she has now mapped out a future. She wants to be a P.E. teacher to work with kids and promote fitness, inspired by her throws coach Jennifer Stalwick.
“I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “It’s an experience I wish I didn’t have to go through, but I’m glad I did. Everyone gets down, gets depressed, but you have to push through it. It doesn’t matter how many times you stumble, you have to get back up.”
Idaho has its state-qualifying meets this weekend. The area 5A and 4A schools are in Lewiston today and Friday. The 5As advance the top three individuals and a relay team and the 4As send two individuals and a relay. On Friday, the 3A is at Timberlake, and the 2A and 1A are at Kamiah. The 3A and 1A meets send the top four individuals and the 1A gets two relays in. The 2A advances three individuals.
The Greater Spokane League District 8 meets are at Spokane Falls CC today and Friday. The 4A schools advance the top eight individuals and top three relay teams to regionals. In 3A it’s the top four individuals and top two relays. Their regional is next weekend at SFCC. … The Great Northern League District 7 2A meet is also today and Friday at West Valley. The top three individuals and winning relay teams advance to the regional at Prosser on May 20. … The District 7 1A meet is at Freeman on Saturday. The top four in all lane events and top six in the rest advance to the regional a week later at Riverside.
Paul Thomas of Lakeside threw the discus 185-1 in a league meet last week, giving the Northeast A two overall state leaders. The other is Newport shot putter Aaron Castle (61-1). … Mead junior Wes Bailey, state leader in the 300-meter hurdles and 200, ran the 200 in 21.3 seconds last Thursday to erase the 21.4 University’s Anthony Buchanan ran in 2000 as the best in a league meet. In the same meet at Mt. Spokane, Katie Knight broke the 1,600 record with a 4:56.4, but it wasn’t Jessica Fry’s record she broke. It was her own, as she broke Fry’s record last year. … Saturday was a strange weather day, which is also the report from Newport, where the Freeman boys won. “There was lightning and rain,” Grizzlies coach Barry Sartz said. “I’m sure one cloud was a tornado, but it didn’t quite form. Everybody was oohing and aahing.” … The state hammer throw championship is in Spokane on May 29, the day after the state meet ends. Deadline to preregister is May 20. For information contact Alan Wardsworth at Central Valley.