The Greatest Track Story in Kitsap History?

Now that track and field season is underway, I think of Dak Kongela.
Kongela is responsible for the single greatest track story I know.
It wasn’t long ago, just two years ago, this happened. Kongela was a triple jumper who did some sprints for North Kitsap.

His senior year, he was limping into the track postseason with a bum leg.
He ran the 100 at the Narrows League meet and finished ninth. Only the top eight went onto districts.
As far sprinting was concerned, his season was done. He would just be jumping the next week.
But during the week between the league and district meets, two sprinters were injured and pulled out of districts. Kongela was going to run at districts. The runner who finished 10th — Central Kitsap’s Danny VanDatta — was also moved up.
At districts, Kongela finished fifth.
Suddenly the runner who’s season was finished, was heading to state.
VanDatta, who was part of a state-champion 400 relay team the year before, also qualified for state.
At the state meet, conventional wisdom had Kongela done on the first day. The 100 is the premier event on the track and it always draws a deep field.
But on Friday, at Edgar Brown Stadium, Kongela, and VanDatta, qualified for Saturday’s finals.
Now, the two runners whose seasons were supposed to end two weeks previously were taking home medals from the Class 4A state meet.
Kongela was running in the outside lane during the finals, meaning he had the slowest qualifying speed and he was the longest longshot to win.
But there was Kongela, streaking past the field and getting involved in a photo finish at the end.
It took more than 20 minutes of reviewing tape before he was declared the winner.
“It was amazing,” Kongela said. “I hugged the closest person.”
That person was VanDatta, who finished eighth.
Kongela also was sixth in the long jump and part of a 400 relay team which finished sixth.
“It was pretty fun to walk around and hear the medals clinking together,” he said.

Has anybody heard a better track story than that?

Nathan Joyce

2 thoughts on “The Greatest Track Story in Kitsap History?

  1. What a great example of enduring to the end! Congratulations! Great lesson to teach young people about not giving up… but rather giving it your all.

    Dennis May

  2. Here’s another good story….from Klahowya Track.

    Sick, Hurt, Angry, and Sunburned add up to a Great Combination

    It was the West Central District 3 (WCD 3), 2A Track and Field Championships at North Mason High School in Belfair, Washington. The allotment of athletes to state from WCD 3 was the top two finishers in each event. The temperature almost hit 90 degrees, and the Klahowya Eagles had high hopes of sending many of the 14 track athletes that qualified for the District Championship on to the State Championship the following week at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma.

    But as many people know, the even the best plans don’t always go the way you want.

    Things started to go south on Klahowya from the beginning when Klahowya placed 8th in the shot put. The trend continued from there when every event Klahowya had athletes in came up short of their plans, including places from 8th place to 4th place. What really stung was the three 3rd place finishes in events, one place short of the needed top two to move on to the state meet.

    There was a glimmer of hope when Klahowya’s Randy Schmittler placed second in the discus. Although the shut out was broken, Klahowya’s hope sank even further when Schmittler’s performance was followed by several more sub-second place finishes, including three more heart wrenching 3rd place finishes.

    As Coach Steve Detweiler gathered the Girls 4 x 400 team together for a final pep talk prior to the race, he could not help but feel a sense of disbelief, not only for the days events, but that he was looking at four young ladies whose physical and emotional states were what seemed to be insurmountable to any advice or words of wisdom.

    Sophomore Jes Cantu, the first leg of the race, had just completed the placing 4th in the 800 meters, and spent the next 15 minutes throwing up into a trash can at the First Aid tent. Senior Sharon Cox had spent the morning placing third in both the Long Jump and Triple Jump, and sustained an upper quad injury. She was going to try and run, but wasn’t promising anything. Senior Sierra Cook, Klahowya perennial state qualifier in the distance races, had not performed at the track this day, but spent the morning and early afternoon coaching young soccer players in a game. She had a glow of sunburn and looked a little tired upon her arrival at the track. Last but not least was freshmen Rebecca Lindgren, who was a little angry about placing 3rd in both the 100 and 400 meter races.

    Coach Steve Detweiler’s words were simple as he pointed…“Listen up Sick, Hurt, Angry, and Sunburned. You guys don’t have a race after this. You need to give it all that you got. As soon as you hand off that baton you should be falling to the track, and the other two girls will drag you off the track. Leave nothing…nothing to regret”.

    The team ran the race of their lives, and following their coach’s instructions to the letter; left nothing on the track. After the second leg of the race Sharon Cox handed the baton to Sierra, collapsed to the ground, and rolled to the infield, when she was met by Jes and Rebecca. It was incredible to see this happening before our eyes.

    No, the team did not win the race. This story is not a fantasy or Walt Disney Production. The team that beat them set a new WCD 3 meet record. But when it was all done and the smoke had cleared, the young women of Klahowya’s 4 x 400 meter Relay Team stood on the podium in second place, securing their berth in the State Championships for the following week, and setting a new school record in the event.

    In less than a week, the team placed ninth at state…not making it to the medal stand, but setting another school record in the event….These girls are incredible!

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