A.J. Acosta bills himself as the “world’s fastest barista,” but it’s not because he’s breaking any records whipping up grande caramel macchiatos.
It’s for how quickly he can cover a mile on the track, though he confessed that because he hasn’t “done a lot of research” and actually awarded himself the title, it’s strictly unofficial.
Here’s something more official: he’s the first man to run a mile in under four minutes in Spokane history.
The former University of Oregon All-American took advantage of a solid early pace and an encouraging audience to put the city on the sub-4 map at last with a run of 3 minutes, 58.07 seconds Saturday night at the revival of the Spokane Summer Games under the lights at Spokane Falls Community College.
For his trouble, he won a $3,000 bonus on top of the $500 first prize in the Bloomsday-sponsored race – a nice windfall if not quite enough to let him call in sick the next couple of weeks.
Acosta has struggled to find sponsorship since leaving Oregon in 2011, and supported himself this past year as a substitute teacher. But after finishing sixth in the USATF 1,500 meters in June, he moved to the Bay Area and took up his post behind the counter at a Starbucks just two blocks from the track at the University of California.
“Except for the top 1 percent, a lot of runners don’t make a whole lot of money,” he said “Having a part-time gig takes some of the pressure of having to need that assistance.
“And I don’t know of too many 4-minute baristas.”
The mile was the grand finale of Herm Caviness’ restoration of the meet he brought to life in the mid-1970s, and it came off in fine fashion. After lightning and gusting winds early in the evening, temperatures had cooled to the low-70s for the mile, with little wind.
“I was a little worried having to do a lot of the work after Mark dropped out,” Acosta said, “but I felt really strong with a lap to go – and had some money in the bank for when I tied up a little in the last 200.”
In the process, he towed runnerup Riley Masters under 4, too – 3:59.23.
The only other sub-4 miles in this region dates back decades – the legendary Henry Rono running 3:59.2 in an indoor meet at Hollingbery Fieldhouse in Pullman in 1977, and Jacinto Navarrete clocking 3:59.87 at the Vandal Indoor in Moscow 10 years later.
But that was only half the show Saturday.
Former Brigham Young pole vaulter Victor Weirich broke the SFCC stadium record with a spectacular clearance of 18 feet, 2 1/2inches, with a couple narrow misses at 18-6 1/2. He beat Idaho State grad Mike Arnold, who brought an 18-8 1/2 best to Spokane but struggled to get over 17-2 1/2 on his third jump and then missed three times at 17-6 1/2.
Weirich’s effort follows an 18-4 1/2 leap that earned him third at nationals – remarkable in that he essentially put training in neutral and “will jump once a month and then go compete.”
“I might have to start training seriously again,” he said. “Or not – this seems to be working.”
His winning jump topped the stadium record of 18-1 set by former Olympic silver medalist Lawrence Johnson at the USA Junior meet here in 1993.
Former Idaho vaulter Melinda Owen Withrow, now competing for the Mountain West Track Club of Missoula, won the women’s vault with a 13-11 1/4 clearance – the wind playing havoc with her attempts at 14-9.
And Kyle Stevens, awaiting word on an appeal to get an extra year of eligibility at Washington State, had a strong series in the javelin, topping out at 230-11.