Already a standout in volleyball and basketball, Loretta Kakala is now known one of the best throwers in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
What started out as a “just for fun” activity, as she put it, track and field has presented the 6-foot-2 Manteca High sophomore with another path to reaching her goal. Kakala progressed to the SJS Masters finals in both the shot put and discus throw and is the Manteca Bulletin All-Area Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“A couple of coaches from a travelling track team came up to me and said I’d be successful in getting a full ride (scholarship), so if I can get in that way I would take it,” Kakala said. “My goal is to get to college, I don’t care what sport it is. That’s what made me take it more serious.”
Kakala credits East Union coach Todd Dunaway for sparking her newest interest. A freshman at East Union last year, Dunaway approached her at school and asked that she come give the sport a try.
“I was supposed to play softball but decided to go out for track and had fun,” Kakala said. “I went in and was so lost, but I was able to throw far because of pure strength. That’s when (Dunaway) moved me up to varsity and taught me how to do it fundamentally.”
She qualified for Masters as a freshman in the shot put and placed 20th but didn’t make it out of the SJS Division IV-V meet in the discus after scratching all three of her attempts in the preliminaries.
Due to CIF transfer rules, Kakala was unable to compete in meets for more than a month but still trained with the team regularly. In just her second meet — a league dual against East Union — she set a personal record in the shot put at 38 feet, 10 inches. She later captured the VOL crown in the event and was the SJS Division II-III runner-up. Kakala was disappointed in her effort at Masters — she placed ninth with a mark of 36-11 — but still had the discus to look forward to.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it (to Masters) for discus, although I got better this year,” Kakala said. “I’ve come to like the discus better even though I’m better at shot put. I like it because you don’t have to put strength into it; it’s all about your footwork.”
It also helps getting a front-row seat watching one of the state’s best in the event. Oakdale junior Hannah Chappell is a three-time SJS Masters champion who went on place fifth at the CIF State Track & Field Championships.
Kakala has picked up a few pointers from the seasoned discus thrower and was able to peak late in the season. She was the VOL runner-up and improved her personal best throw (117-01) at divisionals for a fourth-place finish. Kakala added more than a foot the following week, taking eighth with her top throw measuring at 118-6.
Now, she aims to throw farther and extend the season another week.
“Just getting the chance to compete with (Chappell) is a good experience,” Kakala said. “I felt good being in second place to her in league because she’s really good. We’ve become friends and I was so proud of her moving on (to state), but next year I hope to make it also. It’s disappointing getting that far twice in a row and not moving on.”