NEWPORT BEACH — Leap tall buildings in a single bound? Give Wade Tift some time.
The Newport Harbor senior rushed for more than 200 yards in a single game, kicked a field goal in excess of 40 yards and, on the basketball court, hit three-point baskets with amazing regularity.
One of the Sailors' most versatile athletes, Tift is also among the nation's elite prep shotputters. He leads the county this season with a personal-best mark of 60 feet 10 1/2 inches.
But Tift already has learned that in order to excel at one sport, something is bound to suffer.
After leading Newport Harbor's football team to the first round of the Southern Section Division IV playoffs, Tift decided to forgo his senior basketball season to concentrate on track and field.
The decision was made somewhat easier when he signed a letter of intent to attend UCLA on a track scholarship and a new basketball coach was hired at Newport Harbor during the off-season.
"It just got too tiring trying to lift weights after a full basketball practice, and with a new coach coming in in basketball, it made the decision to skip it a lot easier," said Tift, who started at forward his junior season and helped the Sailors reach the section III-AA playoffs.
As for missing basketball this past season?
"I went to the big games," he said. "And when it came down to the end, I wished that I could have been in there to see how we would have done."
Again, the Sailors reached the playoffs, but again, they lost their first-round game.
Perhaps Tift could have made a difference. He seems to achieve goals he sets.
As a Newport Beach Junior Lifeguard, Tift regularly outran Sailor teammate and distance standout Trent Bryson, who has covered 3,200 meters in 9 minutes 48.1 seconds this spring.
"I used to kill those guys back then," Tift said, "but running just wasn't that much fun for me."
Until high school, Tift played soccer with current Corona del Mar standout Jason Boyce on a regional AYSO squad.
"If (Tift) would have chosen to direct the attitude he took toward football or throwing as a freshman into distance running, there is no doubt in my mind that he could be one of the best around," Newport Harbor Coach Bim Barry said.
"He's just got an abundance of talent and a great work ethic."
Those attributes helped the 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior compete against much larger athletes.
"I love looking up at those 6-4, 250-pound men before the competition who are glaring down at me trying to psyche me out," Tift said.
"Then, when it's all over, they can't even look me in the eye. That's the best."
With his personal-best effort earlier this spring, Tift became Orange County's 23rd shotputter to surpass 60 feet. (The county record is 69-6 1/2, set by Capistrano Valley's Brian Blutreich in 1985.) But his mark is not even good enough to crack the top five all-time list at his school.
Newport Harbor's strength coach, Tony Ciarelli, has been instrumental in Tift's success.
"I've always been able to take the guys with the quick fibers and strength and make them good throwers," Ciarelli said.
In addition to the upcoming State meet, where he finished fourth last year, Tift is eagerly awaiting a shotput showdown with Ciarelli, who won the national masters javelin throw (213 feet) two years ago. There will be no medals for the winner, but if Ciarelli loses, which he has yet to do against Tift, he has vowed to wear a dress to school.
"I've got confidence," Ciarelli said.
Although beating bigger throwers has been fun in high school, Tift's size might eventually limit his track and field career.
"It really would be tough at his size to throw much beyond 62 or 63 feet," Ciarelli said. "But he's proven me wrong before."