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Baylee Mires is the big star distance runner at Mead and her dad, John Mires, is the coach. She won the 800- and 1,600-meter races at the State 4A meet the past two seasons as well as anchoring the Panthers' two-time State 4A-winning 1,600 relay team. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Baylee Mires born to run

Could it simply be genetics?

If so, the credit would go to a big and fast grandfather who played college football in California and a diminutive grandmother.

Could it be from long rides in a jogging stroller as her mother pounded out the miles that subconsciously developed that rhythmic stride?

If so, the credit would go to a former cheerleader with the natural gait who wishes she had started running in high school.

Could it be the competitiveness that comes from racing a circuit in the house that changed surfaces from linoleum to carpet and looked like roller derby?

If so, the credit goes to an older sister.

Could it be the natural affinity that comes with growing up in a coach’s house?

If so, the credit goes to a father who always challenged his tag-along.

The reality is that each of those things contributed to putting a 5-foot-7, 110-pound Mead senior on the verge of becoming the most decorated track athlete in Greater Spokane League history.

“She’s genetically gifted, obviously, but beyond that, it’s her competitive nature and she’s not afraid of pain,” Mead coach Dori Robertson said. “She likes to put it on the line and when somebody else puts it on the line, she likes that. And she’s not afraid of hard work.”

With a blend of speed and endurance, Baylee Mires has collected four individual and two relay gold medals at the State 4A track meet and she’ll probably add to that in a couple of months. Only Rogers star Becca Noble raced to four individual titles but she anchored just one championship relay. One of Mires’ goals for gold is to break Noble’s state meet record (2 minutes, 8.61 seconds) while winning her third 800 meters.

That’s quite enough success for one family, but while the Panthers were rolling to their second team title, Baylee’s father, John, was shepherding the boys team to the eighth title in school history and second in a row.

John Mires was a state-placing hurdler at Mead and then competed for Jerry Martin at Eastern Washington. But he isn’t about to take any more credit than exposing his middle child to track and letting her passion develop naturally.

“I knew her body type was probably going to be a middle-distance runner,” he said.

In grade school, when she had to write a paper about being part of a family, Baylee described hanging with her dad’s team.

“They were like my big brothers and I decided to try it,” she said. “I ended up doing every event but running. I sucked at the shot put, I was third in the long jump, last in the high jump and I think I did OK in the hurdles. Then the 800 meters came and I just blew everybody away.

“I remember thinking I was OK, I found (my event). I think it was kind of in my blood. I kind of knew I would come around to it.”

It’s not that Mires grew up a track nerd. There was soccer, ballet, gymnastics and basketball, which she continued into high school.

But track was always there, even though there was a time John thought his main focus would be coaching basketball. He taught five years at Kahlotus where he made his basketball players turn out for his track team and jump hurdles.

Then it was on to Yelm because, his wife, Amy, said, “we just wanted pizza delivery.”

That’s where the one-time Ferris cheerleader pushed Baylee’s stroller through all sorts of weather with a stride that impressed the track coach in the family.

Baylee said. “I think the rhythm, the sound of it, was always in my head.”

Baylee and her sister, Jessica, four years older, would also race around the house that just happened to have a perfect circuit through the kitchen, dining room and living room, with changing surfaces to enhance the challenge. Dad even had them start like sprinters.

But after five years John basically quit so the girls could attend Mead schools. That was 1998 and John got lucky to find part-time employment in the Mead district, where he was an assistant under Gary Baskett for two seasons before taking over the track team.

While John was rebuilding Mead into a track power after Mt. Spokane opened to split the district, Baylee steadily got better, advancing a little further during summer track while doing other sports. Her real confidence started in junior high when she went to the high school to run with her sister during cross country workouts.

“I had been playing all the sports up to that point, but I narrowed it down to cross country, basketball and track,” she said.

She enjoyed the first two sports her freshman year but when she turned out for track, “my whole world just opened up,” she said.

It wasn’t just the running.

“Track is so consistent,” she said. “It’s never going to change. I can run the same times over and over. Cross country is a different mind-set. You have to stay focused for 18 minutes. Because track has so many events going on, I can distract myself and the focus isn’t just on me. Track is like a circus. I love it.”

And there has never been an issue between the track coaches with Baylee caught in the middle.

“He really understands,” Robertson said. “He just handed her to me. He’s been great.”

Baylee said, “As soon as I hit freshman year I was completely Dori’s and he’s been my emotional coach. I can always find him in the crowd. I go to my dad for the mental side of whatever I’m doing, whenever I’m nervous, whenever I need some inspiration.”

There hasn’t been a lot of that.

Robertson has been cautious with Baylee, who injured a foot in freshman cross country. They have gone for quality over quantity in her mileage. Mires only ran the relay and 1,600 at state her freshman year (finishing second in both).

“We erred on the side of caution,” Robertson said. “Looking back on it she could have handled the 800 at state. I would rather look back on that than say we overdid it. I think we’ve been pretty successful keeping kids healthy. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.”

That is fine with the ultra-competitive Mires, who shares a vision for her future that her coach agrees with..

“I never looked at high school as being it, being the end of my career” said Mires, who will run at Washington next year. “I’m already looking at running after college. I’d like to be a pro. I like the idea of being in an elite running group.”