Jen Dunford said it wasn’t cold.
It was easy for her to say on a cold, wet Thursday afternoon.
The Mead senior ran personal bests in four events, including two relays, to lead the Panthers to surprisingly easy victories over Ferris and University in a Greater Spokane League track showdown at Mead.
The Panthers beat Ferris 97-54 and University 97-44 in a battle of unbeatens that virtually wrapped up their fourth straight league title with one week to go. U-Hi edged Ferris 71-70.
“I was nervous but I was excited, too,” Dunford said. “We worked all week to get pumped up. Adrenalin helps. After the 100, everything settled into place.”
On the boys side, Mead ran its dual meet streak to 134 by beating Ferris 110-34 and U-Hi 94-51 behind double winners Matt Sturm and Jason Fayant. University topped Ferris 86-56.
At Gonzaga Prep, Lewis and Clark tied the Bullpup boys 72-all and beat Rogers 98-46. Prep handled the Pirates 98-46. LC’s girls swept and Prep defeated Rogers.
At Central Valley, the Bears swept Shadle Park and North Central. The boys won 103-42 over Shadle and 95-49 over NC, with Shadle edging NC 73-71. The CV girls beat Shadle 89-52 and NC 105-36 with Shadle topping NC 84-57.
Relays were crucial in the battle to end Mead’s reign but the battle ended early when a bad handoff cost University a chance to win the short relay.
With Dunford running the anchor leg, Mead won the 400 relay in an area-best 49.7 seconds. That came shortly after Dunford won the 100 in 12.7. At the end, Dunford took the 200 in 26.7 and then ran leadoff for the 800 relay that went 1:48.16.
“I felt really good today,” Dunford said. “I haven’t felt this good in a couple of weeks. Things clicked for me, everything fell into place.”
Dunford, alone, didn’t bury the competition but she helped fashion a strong one-two punch with Abbey Hornstein. The Panthers sophomore finished behind Dunford in the 100 and 200 and ran legs on both winning relay teams.
“I was pretty nervous but I was more excited than anything,” Hornstein said. “It was a big meet and it is pretty exciting to be on a relay team with these people.
“I did pretty well. It wasn’t the best meet I’ve ever had but I came through for the team. I was pretty happy with that.”
Mead didn’t just sweep to the wins. Ferris, behind a 1,600-3,200 double by Jenny Smith, won four events, and University won five, thanks to a shot put-discus double by Syd Perno and a long jump-triple jump double by Adrienne Wilson.
Dunford credited her coaches for putting athletes where they could get the most points.
“They focused on putting everyone in places where they could do their best,” Dunford said. “Everyone did so well today. It was neat. This is the meet we wanted. All year we’ve been thinking about this meet.”
At CV, Jill Nepean won the long and triple jumps for the Bears and Vanessa Larkin won the 200 and high jump for Shadle Park.
There were three double winners at Prep. LC’s Rebecca Paulk won both hurdles and Jessica Dineen won the long jump and high jump. Kara Laney of Prep took the 100 and 200.
It wasn’t a surprise to see Sturm win the 100 (10.9) but the same couldn’t be said about the 400 - a distance he had only run three times previously, in the 1,600 relay.
Pushed down the stretch by teammate Jim Hughbanks, Sturm ran 50.9, among the area leaders.
“They’re trying to get me ready for the 4x4, I’m the anchor leg on that now,” Sturm gasped after the race. “It shocked me, too, this week when they told me. That’s the hardest race I’ve ever run but the coach says it will make me better in the 100 and 200.”
Sturm said he feels stronger in the 200 but there is a big change in how he has to run the different races.
“I’m used to worrying more about my start than finish,” he said. “In this race I have to worry about my finish, keeping my arms going. I don’t hate it but it’s not my favorite. It takes a lot of guts. It’s a challenge, I’ll say that.”
Fayant won the 800 (1:58.8) and 1,600 (4:16.5).
Mike Lynch of LC won three events at Prep, the 200, 400 and long jump. Double winners were Prep’s Jim Rucker in the distances and Chris Barton in the hurdles.