Three-sport athletes, especially at bigger schools, are growing more uncommon in an age when specialization can mean scholarships.
But Kainoa Figueira’s selflessness is just as uncommon.
The Mt. Spokane senior was a blocking receiver for a run-oriented football team and averaged fewer than two minutes per game in basketball – in which his most important job was guarding league MVP Tyson Degenhart in practice every day.
His chance to shine comes in spring, as a member of the track team in the 800 and 4x400 relay.
He and teammates Ryan Gockley, Craig Runge and Spencer Barrera were state champs in the relay last year.
Even in an individualized sport like track, he’s always a team player.
“In track, what I’ve had the most success in was the 4x4, kind of relying on my teammates,” he said. “Being a part of that team has been my favorite part of track.”
One of Mt. Spokane’s valedictorians with a 4.0 grade-point average, Figueira committed to Whitworth last week to run cross country and track.
“Sports has always been a huge part of my life,” Figueira said. “What I’ve kind of lived by and everything that I’ve learned has been through some kind of physical activity or sport.”
Figueira’s father, Danny, has been the offensive coordinator at Mt. Spokane since it opened in 1997.
“He represents everything that’s good and right with high school sports,” boys basketball coach David Wagenblast said. “He is the ultimate teammate and such a great kid. You can’t help but like him.”
Added football coach Terry Cloer: “You won’t find another young man that will work as hard as he does in everything that he does. He’s made himself into the athlete that he is because of his hard work and his work ethic and the character that he has.”
Figueira spent most of his time in football blocking for all-state tailback Kannon Katzer. He said football taught him traits he will take through life.
“One of the biggest lessons I learned was just every time in life when everything hurts, you gotta move through it, you’ve got to get through it,” he said.
“He puts in the work and the effort that other people may not do to be great,” Cloer said.
Figueira’s basketball playing experience his senior season was mostly limited to spelling starters in the waning seconds of a quarter to give them an extra breath on the bench.
“To me, basketball wasn’t so much about playing time,” he said, “but about the connections we made on the team, how much the team meant to each of us, and how much each player meant to everybody else.”
Figueira wore the badge of “practice player” on the basketball team with honor.
“I didn’t get in as much as everybody else, but I’m fine with that. It’s just, in practice, we all get to get better together.”
Wagenblast said Figueira’s contributions were immeasurable.
“The kind of kid that is willing to not play and yet be a great teammate, that’s such a rare thing,” he said. “As a coach, to have a kid that knows his role and understood the value that it brought to our team, we appreciated him so much. He was huge for us in games in terms of always being engaged. He would come in – even if it was only for just a really quick spurt – it was always something that would energize the team.”
In the Wildcats’ final game of the season at the state tournament, a 74-50 loss to Seattle Prep in a first-round matchup, Figueira assisted fellow senior Mitch Stengle on their last basket of the game.
“That was a pretty great way to go out,” Wagenblast said. “I was glad he got to have a moment like that at the (Tacoma) Dome.”
“The state environment is no joke,” Figueira said. “And it’s indescribable to someone who has not experienced that. It’s just this surreal feeling that you just kind of have to live for yourself.”
Though Figueira might have been a star at some other schools, he never considered an option.
“I never take for granted what I had at Mt. Spokane,” Figueira said. “And I would never want to change what I had.”
Missed opportunity: Mt. Spokane has won the past three GSL baseball titles – last year edging Central Valley by one game – and several other schools were in position to challenge the Wildcats this season.
Coach Alex Schuerman would have liked to have had the chance to defend their three-peat.
“It’s one of those things where you don’t get that opportunity all the time,” Schuerman said. “I don’t know that anyone (in the league) has ever done a four-peat. We knew it wouldn’t have been easy.
Three or four other GSL programs could have laid a claim as the team to knock Mt. Spokane off.
“Our kids were of the mentality that ‘we’re not gonna let that happen,’ ” Schuerman said. “That was their mindset, at least, going into the season. So we were gonna scrap and claw to reach that goal.”
Of its 13 seniors, Mt. Spokane has at least three headed for college baseball: three-year starter Nate Naccarato (Northwest Nazarene), Ryne Byus (Walla Walla CC) and catcher Trevor Mason (Pacific Lutheran), who would have started for the first time this year after backing up three-time all-league pick Quentin Ayers.
“(Mason) is a kid who loves baseball and goes to a lot of camps, anywhere where he can get noticed,” Schuerman said. “When you’re 6-4 and the ball jumps off your bat, you might as well take a chance on developing him for four more years.”
Mt. Spokane senior roll call
Baseball: Zane Baker, Erick Brown, Ryne Byus, Jaden Gallion, Brandon Ivanich, Devon Lusk, Trevor Mason, Mitchel Matson, Nate Naccarato, Ian Pollock, Jose Alvarez Renteria, Gabe Schauer, Jacob Waters.
Softball: Allison Borchers, Emma Jay, Katie McKinnis, Madilyn Odiorne, Alli Schuerman, Andrea Scott, Sydney Wiyrick.
Boys Soccer: Riley Bork, Ethan Davis, Gavin Furulie, Eduardo Garcia, Cruz Montufar, Cameron Sing, Kyler Willard.
Boys Tennis: Benny Barcellos, Casey Lemon, Vincent Li, Nicholas Torchia.
Girls Tennis: Grace Anderson, Sammie Maher, Amira Murawaski, Kennedi Rehn, Kate Ross, Cameron Singley.
Boys Golf: Ben Drahman, Ethan Wagner.
Girls Golf: Hallie Miller.
Boys Track: Devon Baldwin, Lukas Brown, Jake Carr, Kainoa Figueira, Colton Gutsche, Connor Hale, Michael Hanson, Jared Klein-Tooley, Paxton Lester, Jake Lewis, Matt McNitt, Ryan Miller, Nik Moran, Camden Moyer, Gabe Panferov, Connor Singley, Brennan Twiggs.
Girls Track: Gemma Davis, Marli Krantz, Allie Lafferty, Jordyn Lungo, Emma Main, Mia McGinnity, Abby Newcomb, Sarah Schupp, Angie Turner.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.