Senior Kelsie Klaahsen will graduate from Tioga next week but she won't soon be forgotten in Groveland.
"Kelsie has set the standard here for what kids can accomplish in track and field," said Tioga seven-year head coach Randi Mittelstadt. "She has been the best track and field athlete we've ever had here. There's no question about that - she's the best ever."
Klaahsen's specialty was the discus throw.
This spring, she finished third at sections and 12th at Masters. In 2011, she took second at sections and seventh at Masters. As a sophomore, she was second at sections and sixth at Masters.
"Making it to the Masters Meet for three straight years was an
outstanding accomplishment," said Mittelstadt. "Kelsie has made it
possible for other kids here to now believe that they can get to
Masters, too, and perhaps beyond that."
"I take a lot of pride that I was able to compete for Tioga," says
Klaahsen. "I definitely have to say that I would not have wanted my
high school experience to have gone any other way than it did. At other
bigger schools, people can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Here, at
Tioga, every student is given the opportunity to accomplish something
and be successful."
Klaahsen has vivid memories of her introduction to being a track and field competitor.
"I was living in San Diego when I was younger and I knew what track
was," she said. "I thought it was just running. Then, when I was 13,
Coach Mittelstadt said, 'Throw the shot put.' I said, 'What? What's
"When I was in 8th-grade, he asked me, 'Why not throw the discus?' I
asked him, 'What is that?' But I was able to pick it up surprisingly
quickly and I was excited - I really enjoyed it all."
And she got good at it. Very good.
As a sophomore, she set the Sierra Invitational all-time discus throw
record of 106 feet. That spring, she became Tioga's first athlete to
ever make it to Masters.
"Outside of the physical work, practicing, I'd have to attribute my
success to determination and perseverance," says Klaahsen. "And without
the support from my mom (Amanda) and dad (Randy) and my coach, I would
not have been able to discover my hidden talent."
Randy Klaahsen passed away on Feb. 8, 2011, at age 46 from pancreatic cancer.
"It all happened so fast," said Kelsie. "He was diagnosed and,
literally, 12 days later, he passed away. Having the throwing
competition was a good thing for me after my dad passed away. It was a
good outlet to have. When I go in the ring, no matter what else is
going on in my life, I put everything else aside. Having that state of
mind helped me a lot as a person and athlete."
As a member of the Tioga Timberwolves, Kelsie Klaahsen has one distinctive all-time favorite memory.
"My favorite memory was watching my teammate be so successful this
year," she said. "I was proud to be the first Tioga student to attend
Masters. But I was more proud when my teammate (sophomore) Matt Spring
attended Masters this year. He was ranked 25th out of 25 competitors
(in the 1600-meter run) and he placed 11th. It's amazing what our
little school can do!"
"Well," said Mittelstadt, "Kelsie picking a teammate's performance as
her favorite memory is not at all out of character. She is a true
teammate. Before a lot of our meets, the kids on our team would spend
the night at her house and her mom would cook the meal so the whole
team could have dinner together. Kelsie was important at making sure
our team pulled together so well.
"And, next year, when she competes for MJC (Modesto Junior College),
she will be making big improvements. Having a coach who can work with
her exclusively on her throws will be a great asset."
"I'm really looking forward to pursuing throwing in college," says Klaahsen. "It feels like my calling."
Klaahsen says she'll forever have a slight edge when she's competing.
"When I throw, I always like to think that it's my father who is
providing that extra gust of wind I get or that little extra shove
forward. I always think of my father. I always feel he's looking down
on me - making sure I'm doing the right thing. I always know, no matter
what, that he wants me to be successful."