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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

2024 Spring High School Sports Preview: Twins shine for Springdale in both track and field and the classroom

Springdale track and field stars Tomeko and Tamia Cates are also standouts in the classroom.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

SPRINGDALE – Mary Walker High School will suffer a big loss – make that a pair of big losses – when the Cates twins graduate this spring.

Tamia and Tomeko Cates are not only two of the athletes at the Springdale school, they’re also the two top students.

They have earned valedictorian and salutatorian honors – Tamia with a 4.0 grade-point average and Tomeko with a 3.9.

The twins share the same love for track, and that will be the vehicle they use to continue their education in college.

Three-sport athletes, Tomeko wants to be a decathlete and Tamia wants to be a heptathlete in college. The decathlon consists of competition in 10 events, and the heptathlon consists of seven events.

They’re essentially rookies in most of the events. They dipped their toes into competition last June at the unofficial high school championships at Lake Stevens.

Tomeko followed it up with two more decathlons, placing second at the Junior Olympics and seventh at the Nike Nationals. Both meets were at the University of Oregon’s famed Hayward Field.

A four-year starter in football and basketball, Tomeko had never done three of the 10 events in the decathlon – the pole vault, 110-meter hurdles and 1,500.

He vaulted 9 feet, 6 inches at Lake Stevens and twice did 11-6 at the summer meets. He’s now pushing 13-0 after attending practices at Whitworth and Mead in recent weeks.

Tomeko swept his four events at the State 2B meet last spring, winning the high jump, long jump and triple jump to go along with the 200.

His best event is the high jump. He set the state meet record last year when he jumped 6-9. His goal is to eclipse 7-0 this season.

Tamia won state titles in the long and triple jumps and placed fifth each in the high jump and javelin.

Tomeko almost single handedly led Springdale to a state championship last year. He wants a repeat.

Raw but naturally gifted is an apt description of their abilities in track. They don’t get the quality workouts during the season at Springdale because the school has a dirt track.

The runway approaches for the jumps can be as rough as the gravel-packed track surface. The rubber-matted runways often bubble up, requiring the twins to stretch them out before they train.

“You can’t do everything that you could do on a regular track,” Tamia said. “We still go 100% and train as hard as we can, but our 100% on a dirt track doesn’t look the same on a rubberized track.”

They each want to go out as four-event state champs this spring.

“Tomeko picks things up so easily,” Cindy Cates, their mother, said. “He gets whatever you tell him and understands the physical part of it too. Both of them are so athletic.”

Cindy Cates has been a long-time track coach at Springdale, where she attended growing up. She took on the role as head coach this year.

“Our mom has learned a lot, and I’m very proud of her, but we haven’t had any (technical) coaching, that kind of training,” Tamia said.

Paternal twins, they don’t have the twinning thing that many twins have. They’re not each other’s best friend, but they certainly love and respect each other.

They’re both being recruited. Oregon and the University of Washington have reached out to Tomeka. Seattle Pacific and Western Washington have done the same with Tamia. Calvin University, a private Christian NCAA Division III school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is recruiting the pair. They took a visit together to Calvin.

The only drawback is the distance from their mom.

“Calvin’s campus felt the best to me, and I liked the student-athletes I roomed with,” Tomeko said.

“I’m leaning toward Calvin because it had the best financial aid package,” Tamia added. “The environment there felt like it was the place to be.”

Tomeko surpassed 1,000 career points in his fourth season as a starter in basketball. He moved from running back to wide receiver last fall to avoid potential injury.

Tamia was a four-year starter in basketball and started at outside hitter in volleyball last fall when Springdale took fifth at state.

Success in the classroom seemingly comes as naturally as athletics. The twins share two classes in their final semester – English Literature and Civics.

“I’m really good in English and history, and he’s really good in math and science,” Tamia said.

They appreciate how they balance each other out in the classroom. If one needs help in a class, Tamia said they “collaborate.”

The twins give all the credit for their accomplishments to their mom.

“My mom has inspired me to be the athlete I am because she’s always there to help when I need it,” Tomeko said. “She’s always positive. She never talks negative if I do something wrong or mess something up.”

The twins said that growing up in a small community has been a blessing.

“Being from such a small town, it’s like proving to people that you don’t have to be from somewhere big to do something big that motivates me,” Tamia said. “You don’t have to know everything and be so athletic to go somewhere. No matter where you are, you can do it.

“Yeah, we’re from practically the middle of nowhere. But you can do anything anyone else can do from bigger schools.”