They have spirit names for many of their in-district showdowns, but when the Mt. Spokane and Mead boys track teams face off at 4 p.m. today at Mead it will be nothing short of competitive and intense.
Track? Intense? Yes, this dual will be intense. The outcome doesn’t decide the Greater Spokane League championship outright since both teams have final duals next week, but it will go far in determining which team finishes on top.
The Mead boys have been the picture of dominance in GSL track since the league was founded in 1976. The Panthers have won 30 titles in 37 years, including the last six.
Mt. Spokane can do something it has done before – snap a long Mead dual winning streak.
In the school’s second year of existence, Mt. Spokane broke the Panthers’ 157 straight dual win streak in 1999. Mead’s current consecutive GSL streak is 66, dating back to 2007.
Mt. Spokane coach Pat Kostecka, a Mead graduate, could join his brother, Joe, also a Mead grad who was the Mt. Spokane coach in 1999, as the coach of a streak buster.
Pat Kostecka spent 24 years as a teacher and track coach at Chewelah before taking over at Mt. Spokane last spring.
His team was picked to finish eighth in league but ended up third.
When asked if Kostecka planned to talk about Mead’s streak to his team prior to the showdown, he paused for a few moments before giving a reply.
“It’s just going to be quite a battle,” Kostecka said. “Yes, we do know about their streak. The bottom line is, here we go.”
Many thought this could be the year Mead’s current streak of dual wins and league titles could be broken. Coach John Mires’ team consists largely of sophomores and freshmen.
Mead dodged a bullet in a league opener, edging North Central 73-72. Two weeks ago, Mead sidestepped Central Valley 75-70.
Mires is impressed with his team’s growth.
“From our perspective, we weathered the storm (early duals) to get into that league championship bid,” Mires said. “We’ve improved a lot. I’ve scored the dual in our favor, in their favor, in our favor … there are so many different scenarios. It’s a coin flip.”
Even if Mt. Spokane wins, Kostecka knows his team will have another hurdle before possibly clinching the title.
“We also have CV left, so we don’t have an easy go,” Kostecka said. “There’s a possibility of a (three-way tie for the league title).”
Both Mead (6-0) and Mt. Spokane (5-0) have their strengths. The Panthers are strong in the hurdles and pole vault. The Wildcats are untouchable in the distances. The deciding events could be the relays.
“I have this thing pretty darn even,” Kostecka said of mapping out possible scenarios.
What Kostecka is proud of is the growth of his team.
“They believe in themselves and the program,” he said. “And I love our coaching staff. It’s neat to see how far the program has come.”
Three places are scored (5-3-1) in a dual along with the winning relay (5). Thirds will be critical to the outcome.
“Anything could be the difference,” Kostecka said. “It’s going to be quite an experience.”
“People have asked if I’m worried about the streak coming to an end,” Mires said. “For me, it’s never been about that.”
Two standout athletes who have been mentioned here before had impressive feats last week in GSL dual meets.
Mead’s Braden Barranco increased his personal best in the pole vault by soaring 15 feet, 3 inches. He is the overall state leader. He just missed on three attempts at 15-9 to break the school record (15-8).
North Central’s Sabrina Keys continues to improve her school record in the shot put. She pushed it out to 44-6.
Carter Naperiala of Kootenai improved 6 inches in the pole vault at 14-0, tying Preston Rhodes of Timberlake for the top spot in North Idaho.
Two small-school Washington freshmen keep lowering their times in the distances – Shania Graham of Republic in the 1,600 (5:25.00) and Madison Ward of St. George’s in the 3,200 (11:53.60).