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Annette Helling (right) is coach both her daughters, Ashlee Pedersen (left) and Sammi Pederson (center) on the Mt. Spokane track team. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Family on same track at Mt. Spokane

Sammie Pedersen prefers basketball, younger sister Ashlee likes soccer.

As for track, the Mt. Spokane three-sport athletes have learned to like it.

“I really didn’t have an option,” Sammie, a senior said. “Now I love track. It’s so awesome, but it was like, ‘You’re going to do it.’”

Ashlee, a freshman, agreed.

“It kind of started off that way, but now I don’t feel like that,” she said.

Their coach sees it positively.

“I was so excited for this year. I knew this would be one of the best years of my life.”

It was their mother (and coach), Annette Helling, who said that.

“I love it,” she said of this one-year convergence of the three. “I love seeing them out there every day. They’re happy, they’re glad to be there. They get along great. They put me in a good mood.”

That her daughters are in track should have been a given, considering Helling is the greatest hurdler in Greater Spokane League history.

“She was pretty good,” Sammie allowed. “I heard she still has records.”

Helling’s 1981 times, when she was a junior at Central Valley, still stand as the fastest. Her 42.1 seconds for the 300 hurdles is 1 second faster than the No. 2 time and her 13.9 in the 100s is more than a half-second faster.

Sammi hurdles, but Helling refers to her as a trooper.

“If we’re short, she’ll do whatever we need her to do,” Helling said.

That includes the shot put or the 3,200. Ashlee is basically a sprinter and a long jumper, but it’s early and she doesn’t know there could be an 800 in her future. She prefers to avoid the hurdles.

“They scare me,” she said. “I feel like I’d trip.”

Having her daughters on the team complicates – in a good way – a track meet for Helling.

“I’m focused on being coach and then realize now I have to be a mom,” she said. “They are going to be in eight different events. That takes a lot of mom. … It may become awkward at some time. It’s too early in the season to tell.”

The truth is, every Wildcat is like a daughter to her. It was that way when she was coaching at Mead in 1993, trying to take in everything just days before Sammie was born. There was a newspaper article about the Panthers edging defending GSL champion University 73-68 by winning the meet-ending 1,600 relay in record time.

In the celebration, an assistant coach told the team, “Be sure to read tomorrow’s paper to see if this caused her to have her baby.”

She held out until May 19, the first day of the district meet. She attended the second day of district.

Ashlee was born during cross country season, when Helling was an assistant to Wes Player, making that pregnancy a little less stressful. Then the waiting began for this one season, a given even if the girls didn’t know it.

“I like it,” Ashley said. “It makes me work harder at practice, because she actually knows how fast I can run. No slacking.”

“Sometimes I can be a little harder on my kids, because I know what they can do,” Helling said.

“I wouldn’t change this year,” she added. … “When I think of Sammie graduating, I would cry now if I thought too much about it.”

Sweet meet

The Eastmont Invitational last weekend in East Wenatchee was a good one, with seven records broken and a “Central” sweep – the Central Valley girls and North Central boys won the team titles.

The NC boys had 146 points to easily outdistance CV (107½) in a field that included Skyline and Wenatchee, which finished second and third in state (4A) last year. The CV girls had 173 points, with Wenatchee at 137.

NC got a pair of records in the 3,200 – Vince Hamilton (9:17.87), which broke a mark by former Indian Andy Kimpel, and Katie Knight (10:36.36). NC senior Andrew Wordell just missed the meet record in the 800 and just beat his teammate Keith Williams, with both going less than 1:56, putting them second and third in the state.

Wenatchee freshman Isaiah Brant-Smith appears to have quite a the future. He won the 200 in record fashion (22.07) for a state best and also leads the state in the 100 (10.83).

Last lap

Keep an eye on the strongmen of the Northeast A. Newport junior Aaron Castle is the State 1A leader (second overall) in the shot put at 57 feet, 1 inch, with Chewelah senior Will Peters second at 51-9 and Paul Thomas of Lakeside third at 50-11½. In discus, Thomas leads a 165-11, with Peters third at 155-0 and Castle fourth at 152-2. Thomas has the unique distinction of also being a 6-foot high jumper. … Shadle Park’s Nathan Weitz leads the state in the 3,200 (9:15.85), 2 seconds ahead of Hamilton, and 3A in the 1,600 (4:18). There are an astounding four NC runners – Williams, Hamilton, Wordell and Casey Adams – between 4:20.0 and 4:20.82. … Cheney senior Diondre’ Moore-Young is the State 2A leader in the 110 (15.20) and 300 hurdles (39.68), just ahead of Mead’s Wes Bailey, the 4A leader (39.74). … U-Hi sophomore Jay Alexander, a 12-6 pole vaulter last year, is tied for the state lead at 14-0. … Top-end athletes hoping for records are headed to Arcadia, Calif., this weekend, with Mead’s Baylee Mires among them. … Newport coach Barry Sartz said the Grizzlies couldn’t hold a meet last week because there was snow on the track, a far cry from the 50-degree days in February. As he drove to practice Wednesday morning from his north Spokane home, he met cars headed south covered in snow.