San Diego Athlete of the Week : A Tiger Called ‘Yogi’ Streaks to Section Track Crowns
The Morse High School girls’ track and field team had a seven-year winning streak in the 400-meter relay at the San Diego Section track finals, but the streak appeared to be in jeopardy at last Thursday’s meet.
Even though the Tigers had this season’s best time in the county (48.75 seconds), they were running fifth after two legs.
Then Yogi took off like a bear with a picnic basket.
Yolanda Fitch, called ‘Yogi’ by her teammates, took the baton and quickly made up ground. Morse Coach Gary MacDonald said he timed Fitch in a 11.59 for the 100-meter third leg. Consider that the fastest in the state in the open 100 meters is Hawthorne’s Tami Stiles’ time of 11.66.
By the time Fitch handed off to teammate Kim Matthews, the Tigers were comfortably in the lead and on their way to their eighth straight section championship in the event with a time of 47.91.
Fitch said her competitive nature pushed her during her leg.
“I had to catch those girls,” Fitch said. “I don’t like anyone in front of me. We had won eight (actually seven) times in a row. I couldn’t let us lose. I would have been hurt if we had.”
Fitch wasn’t finished. The junior won the 100 meters (12.09) and the 400 meters (56.16), and ran the anchor leg for the winning 1,600-meter relay team. She contributed in 40 of Morse’s 64 points, a record team total.
For her accomplishments, Fitch has been named The Times’ Athlete of the Week.
Fitch is the best girl quarter-miler in San Diego County. Since she has had the fastest time in the county all season, it was not a surprise that she won the 400.
What was surprising were Fitch’s performances in the 100-meter sprints. Fitch won her heat at the section preliminaries with a time of 12.26, but Mount Miguel’s Nichelle Strachan had the best qualifying time and was favored to win. Again, Fitch’s competitiveness got the best of her opponent.
“Nichelle Strachan was saying she was going to beat us,” said Fitch, who has not lost a race in the 100 this season, either. “She started saying that at Arcadia (Invitational). Everybody was picking Nichelle Strachan, but I really wanted to beat her. She shouldn’t have said anything at all.”
Morse Coach Mike Klepper said Fitch is a great athlete physically and that her mental toughness augments that talent. In the 400-meter relay, for example, she ran with a cramp in her side.
“She’s a very physical girl,” Klepper said, “but the mental aspects of running are tremendously important. Yolanda’s been in front all year, but she found herself behind in the relay. Now she had to go out and catch somebody. The fact that she did shows me a lot.”