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Mead losing more than just an A.D. with Cullen’s retirement

Mead principal Ken Russell got it right the other day.

I called Russell to chat about the pending retirement of athletic director Dick Cullen.

Russell called Cullen an institution.

Cullen’s retirement is a loss for kids. Spend a few minutes around him and it’s easy to see where his first love lies. He has such an enormous capacity to include all kids – the not-so-easy-to-deal-with kids and the top-shelf kids.

I stopped by Mead recently and Cullen was headed to one of the two adaptive physical education classes he teaches. These classes involve kids who face great challenges from day to day.

They started the class in the gym with a few warmup walking laps. One by one as they walked past Cullen he would tell me a little bit of their story. And for students with severe challenges, Cullen talked about how far they had come, and it was always with an ear-to-ear grin – as if he were a proud grandparent.

There’s no better cheerleader for Mead students, athletes or not, than Cullen.

Long ago before Cullen took over as A.D., he was a highly successful soccer coach. He coached Mead’s boys from 1985 to 1996, when the Panthers were league champs each season. Mead was second in state in ’86 and ’96, third in ’90 and fourth in ’89.

He coached the Mead girls from 1984 to 1996. They were league runners-up in 1984-85 and then won league titles the next 11 years. The Panthers were state champs in ’93, third in ’92 and ’95 and fourth three times.

Cullen started his career in San Mateo, Calif., in 1971. He and wife moved to Spokane in 1976.

“I was extremely blessed to have coached at Mead,” Cullen said. “I had the privilege of working with outstanding kids from great families within a tremendously supportive administration and school community.”

Russell hopes to name a replacement by early May.

“It’s not going to be the same without him,” Russell said. “Dick is kid-oriented. He wasn’t just doing a job. He really, really loves this high school, this district, and he’s seen it as a calling.”

More to come

Coeur d’Alene’s recent run of success in football isn’t about to end abruptly with the graduation of a talented senior class. The sophomores who will be juniors are the most talented class coach Shawn Amos has had.

“At this point,” Amos said.

Amos says that with caution because he’s dealing with teenagers. In the middle of that junior-to-be class is his son, Gunnar, the heir apparent at quarterback. On any given day a bunch of those players could be roaming the basement at Amos’ home.

CdA will have about 38 juniors next year. At least 12 are projected as starters and as many as 20 will play significant minutes, Amos said.

As many as nine could end up playing in college, Amos said.

One of those sophomores went to the Nike SPARQ Combine in Long Beach, Calif., last weekend. Wide receiver Addison Johnson, all of 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, finished ranked fourth out of 1,266 participants. Athletes were measured in the 40-yard dash, the shuttle, the vertical jump and the power ball.

Johnson is ranked 31st in the country after results from 11 combines were compiled. Senior-to-be running back/defensive back Reece Mahaffy also attended the combine in Long Beach and finished 113th.

CdA, which has played a competitive schedule the past two years, will have its most difficult schedule this fall. CdA dropped Moscow and Sandpoint and replaced them with perennial Idaho 5A power Highland of Pocatello and recent Oregon power West Linn.