Just when most of Wes Bailey’s peers are cruising toward the end of their senior years, the work is just beginning for the Mead track standout.
Poor effort in the classroom as a freshman and sophomore caught up with Bailey this year. At least, though, things are reversible.
In order to qualify for a track scholarship at an NCAA Division I school – the University of Washington and Washington State are among the potential suitors – Bailey must raise his core grade-point average. He won’t have any difficulty graduating, but plans to go to summer school and take three classes.
He’s made considerable strides academically this year. His GPA first semester was 2.8; he presently has a 3.3 GPA.
“I should have been more disciplined as a freshman and sophomore,” Bailey said. “I didn’t apply myself. If I could do it over I would.”
A scholarship is vitally important.
“I need a scholarship because my family can’t afford to send me to school,” Bailey said. “Like a lot of families we have day-to-day struggles. I want something better for my family.”
Bailey played a big role in helping Mead to the Greater Spokane League championship in football last fall. He’s highly motivated to have a record-breaking season in track and lead the Panthers to a state championship.
The State 4A 300-meter hurdles champ the past two years, Bailey will likely walk away from the event this spring.
“I’m a sprinter, not a hurdler,” he said. “I don’t want to sound cocky but I wanted a new challenge this year and do something new.”
He’s always had trepidation with the hurdles.
“I still love the hurdles but I’ve always had this fear about going over barriers, that I’d catch one and it would cause an injury and I wouldn’t be able to run anymore,” Bailey said.
So Bailey plans to continue with the 200, run a leg on the 400 relay and anchor the 1,600 relay and replace the hurdles with the 400.
He holds school records in the 200 (21.46 seconds) and 300 hurdles (38.0) and was part of the 400 relay that set the school record last year (42.2). He took third at state in the 200 and the 400 relay took second.
Mead, which won state titles when Bailey was a freshman and sophomore, took second last year, finishing four points behind champion Kent-Meridian.
“We should have won state,” Bailey said. “If I take first in the 200, we win. There were a number of little things that could have helped us win state.”
Track was a mere afterthought for Bailey back when he was in middle school in Missoula. He turned out for track for the first time in eighth grade when a friend told him it was a great way to be around girls and that he could cut class for meets.
He and his family moved to Spokane before he started his freshman year. Eighth grade was a difficult year for Bailey, who saw his best friend die because of a heart condition. The Baileys also had some family issues. So moving to Spokane helped give Bailey a fresh start.
Bailey thought his best sport was basketball. But the 5-foot-10, 160-pounder had better results in football and track. He turned down a full-ride offer to play football at Eastern Washington University.
He could do many other events in track, including some jumps.
“His range is unbelievable,” Mead coach John Mires said. “He has the perfect body type. He has beautiful rhythm and a great stride.”
Bailey competed in three events his first three years. He’s stretching it to four this spring.
“There are very few like him,” Mires said. “He’s a team kid first. His willingness to work is awesome. He does all the little things right.”
Bailey has set the bar high for himself. He wants to break the school record in the 400 (49.1) and thinks he can run in the high 46s or low 47s.
“This is going to sound crazy, but I want to do 20.8,” Bailey said.
The all-time fastest time in the state is 21.02 set by Ja’Warren Hooker of Ellensburg at a USATF Junior National meet in Edwardsville, Ill., in 1997. The overall state meet record is 21.24 set by Hooker, also in 1997.
Bailey posted 20.8 all over his bedroom walls. He said throughout the day he sees the combinations of those digits – 2 0 8. While doing the interview for this story, he looked at a bookshelf and saw the combination of those numbers.
“I wanted to challenge myself this year,” Bailey said. “If you reach for the stars and end up in the clouds, that’s OK. Ending up in the clouds would be perfect.”
He will do a 100 here and there in Greater Spokane League meets in an effort to lower his times in the 200.
“Doing the 100s will help me work on my starts in the blocks,” Bailey said.
The 100 isn’t going to be one of his four events because he doesn’t hit his optimum speed until after 80 meters.
“I’m the fastest guy on our team but not the quickest,” Bailey said. “Austin Stone is the quickest. He has the best 80 meters.”
Bailey will team with Stone, Evan Maack and Gunnar Kayser in the 400 relay.
The open 400 will be a challenge, Bailey said. It’s an event he needs to do now since it will be one of the events he does in college.
“It’s a controlled all-out sprint,” Bailey said. “You want to go as fast as you can. People say save something for the last 100. But it’s basically all mental.”
Bailey has his work cut out for him – both on the track and in the classroom.