As the Mead Panthers battled Central Valley with the Greater Spokane League girls track title on the line Thursday evening, the rallying cry became, “Dig for worms.”
After Panthers star Baylee Mires clinched the meet by coasting to her fourth individual win – in the 3,200 meters – her coach, Dori Robertson said, “It’s almost not fair.”
She was talking about what Mires did to the Bears.
“She’s a senior, you ask your seniors to step up,” Robertson said.
But she could have been talking about what Mires did to Panthers’ high jump coach Dean Lenz.
If Mead won, Lenz vowed to eat a worm for every point difference.
With Mires winning the 400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200 to go with some other notable performances in miserable weather – the meet was delayed almost an hour because of lightning – the Panthers won 76½-73½.
“They won it because Baylee is amazing,” said CV coach Dennis McGuire, who has been coaching for 27 years. “She’s the best athlete in the city.”
With her father’s boys team – which faces a league-title showdown with North Central next week at Mt. Spokane – cheering at the finish line and her teammates scattered around the track as she clicked off the eight laps in the 3,200, Mires produced a rare accomplishment that meant so much more.
“I think I had a moment out there,” she said. “I’ve run the 2-mile here before and it felt like it went by so slow. But this one was over in a few minutes. All I was thinking about was how the sky looked good. I felt good. I kept telling myself, ‘You are so lucky, running on this track, being able to bring it home for your team.’ I’m very blessed to have my dad, my mom, my grandpa, and my uncle here. It’s pretty dang cool.”
There was one other realization: “This is my last home meet,” Mires said, choking up. “Look at me, I’m crying. I’m lucky; very lucky.”
Robertson has always been careful not to over-race the slender Mires, who is the two-time defending State 4A champion in the 800 and 1,600 as well as the anchor on the two-time champion 1,600 relay team.
“I hate the 2-mile. I was kind of dreading it all day. I was hoping I would only have to run the 4x4,” she said. “It wasn’t that tough because I kind of knew it was coming. I put a brave face on for the rest of my team. I wanted to make sure they were doing everything possible to win this because I sure as heck put in everything I could.”
All week the Panthers talked about how close the meet would be and at a team meeting the challenge was there.
“Dori said, ‘We’ve got Baylee and if she’s up for it we’ll put her in four events.’ As soon as she said it, I said, ‘Yep, I’m in.’ Setting that example for them, to back up not only my words but to come out and show that I could do that; hopefully it leaves a little mark on their hearts. Hopefully (in the future) they leave all they have on the track. That would be good,” Mires said.
Mires ran the league’s fastest time in the 400 (58.1 seconds) and pulled freshman teammate Kyle Drynan to the second fastest (59.8). She had to put up decent times in the three longer races (2:23.1, 5:20.9, 11:30.8) because Central Valley is the reigning league cross country champion.
Her teammates did step up. Drynan was on the pivotal 400 relay team that was anchored by Malia Maack, who had to hold off impressive CV freshman Savanna Hoekstra – winner of the 100 (12.8), 200 (26.8) and long jump (16 feet, 2 inches).
Courtney Hutchinson had a season best in the shot put (42-3¾). Jade Redmon had a big triple jump (36-1). Hurdlers Emma Kost and Lindzee Baker came up with critical points.
But it was Mires, who led the way and her teammates knew it, coming up to her in droves to voice some sort of appreciation.