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Jill Pecka followed in her brothers’ footsteps as an athlete and leader at Mead High School. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Old-school Pecka shows by example

Mead two-sport athlete believes in team first

Jill Pecka, a four-year, two-sport athlete at Mead, considers herself old-fashioned.

She loves watching old black-and-white movies and musicals. She knits and makes quilts. And she believes in the notion that no individual is above the team.

“I think if we have a mindset that this is a team sport and we’re not doing this for a college scholarship or newspaper articles, we’ll be fine,” she said. “My dad’s philosophy is that no one play wins or loses a game.”

But that’s not to say she hasn’t had her individual moments, which is the nexus of this newspaper article. Despite being the consummate teammate, whether in soccer or softball, Pecka, All-Greater Spokane League in both, has occasionally shown a flair for the dramatic.

One example is her clutch goal that forced overtime and a soccer victory over Gonzaga Prep on the way to the Greater Spokane League championship.

Last spring, she hit a three-run homer to beat eventual GSL softball champion Central Valley.

“She is a kid who, when the chips are down, wants to be counted on and you can count on her the most,” soccer coach Steve Snider said.

Softball coach John Barrington echoed Snider’s remarks, saying Pecka plays with energy all the time, whether it is a big game or not.

“She just shines, because she’s into (the game) all the time,” Barrington said.

Her parents, Ken and Tammie, have reminded her of how fortunate she has been to have played twice in the state soccer semifinals.

“They teach me humility and to take your gifts and use them in a way that can help other people,” Pecka said. “I do try to play as hard as I can each game.”

Pecka has two older brothers, Ken and Danny, who are by 10 and 9 years her elders. Both played baseball at Mead. Danny also was ASB president and continued his baseball career at Whitworth.

She grew up watching them, so playing softball became a natural extension. She’s played soccer, her favorite sport, since she was a young girl.

She said her parents, while supportive, never pushed her to be an athlete.

“They said if I wanted to do it, to go for it,” Pecka said.

She made varsity at Mead as a “nervous” ninth-grader and credits her teammates for encouraging her to become involved in school activities that led to her becoming this year’s ASB president.

Sophomore year had its setbacks. Pecka broke her leg in the season’s first preseason game and she spent soccer on the sidelines in a blue and yellow cast.

“I was close with the seniors that year and was so mad at life,” she said. “It was the last time I’d get to play with them.”

Little lessons that year made her realize she was there to savor the team experience and friendships.

She played her sophomore All-GSL softball season with a broken thumb, discovered after the season ended. Then she broke her wrist, but played soccer last season wearing a half-cast. It was a young team that in her second state trip placed third.

Pecka is in many respects a renaissance woman – an athlete who gives it her all, but plays for enjoyment. She used to play the violin and enjoys simple things.

“I’m kind of an odd girl,” Pecka said. “Not very many people love to watch ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’. My mom opened my eyes to that.”

When the Panthers reached the state soccer semifinals the first time her freshman year, she spent the bus ride to Tacoma knitting and teaching teammates to knit.

She anticipates playing soccer and maybe softball at Whitworth, her parents’ alma mater. Her dad, an ex-Pirates football player, is employed at Whitworth.