TACOMA – Quantity trumped quality in the State 4A boys track and field championships Saturday afternoon.
Gig Harbor, which had more than double the qualifiers thanks to more available state berths than Mead, captured the team title, topping the Panthers on a gorgeous final day in Star Track XXX at Mt. Tahoma High School.
Gig Harbor finished with 62 points, Mead had 58. It’s the second year in a row the Panthers were four points short of first.
“We’ve gone one, one, two, two the last four years,” Mead coach John Mires said about the team trophies. “I can live with that. I’m proud of my team and proud of my staff. It’s been a great year.”
Teams don’t set their sights on second, and there was nothing second-rate about the Panthers’ efforts.
Senior Wes Bailey captured a state title in the 400 meters, the first year he’s competed in the event. The two-time state champ in the 300 hurdles gave up that event so he could try the longer sprint that he will most likely do in college.
Bailey zipped to a season-best 47.85 seconds.
In his first event of the day, Bailey took third in the 100 (11.03) and followed by placing second in the 200 (21.97) – one spot better than last spring.
“I wanted to be aggressive in the 100, but I paused after my drive phase,” Bailey said. “I had to claw myself back just to get third. I was proud of that.”
Bailey gave up the hurdles because he didn’t want to injure himself.
“It may have been stupid in some people’s eyes that a two-time state champ would give up an event,” Bailey said. “I wanted to try something different, something I’ll probably do in college. It was a good race. With about 100 meters to go I knew I was going to have to kick, and no one can outkick me.”
Bailey praised Wenatchee sophomore sensation Isaiah Brandt-Sims, who won the 100 and defended his title in the 200.
“He pushed me,” Bailey said. “I have nothing but good things to say about him.”
Brandt-Sims returned the compliment.
“He always works hard and always pushes me to do my best,” Brandt-Sims said. “I have great respect for him.”
Mead junior Andrew Gardner completed a double, taking the 1,600 (4:09.71) after winning the 3,200 on Thursday.
Gardner had to dive at the finish line to edge Gonzaga Prep senior Conor McCandless by one-hundredth of a second.
Gardner, who professes that he runs with an economy-of-effort approach, spent everything he had to catch McCandless, who broke away with 300 meters remaining.
As Gardner came around the corner to start the final 100 stretch, he had some ground to make up. At the same time it was evident that McCandless was starting to tighten up.
Gardner said he had to go to his bag of tricks – a diving maneuver he learned playing football in junior high – to slip past McCandless.
“It was a great race,” McCandless told Gardner as they embraced. “My legs were just noodles at the end. With 100 meters to go I was scared somebody would pass me. I kept pushing, but my legs were noodles.”
Gardner thanked his teammates, particularly Bailey, for the encouragement he heard from them going down the final stretch.
“I heard shouts and screams,” Gardner said. “It was another level of inspiration. I knew I had to do my part.”
The Mead 400 relay foursome of Bailey, Evan Maack, Austin Stone and Gunnar Kayser had desired to break 42 seconds all season.
They fulfilled that goal while finishing third (41.82), .49 faster than their season best and school record.
Kayser, the anchor leg, took the handoff from Stone and had about a 5-meter lead. But Gig Harbor’s Justin Browne covered that and much more.
“We just got beat,” Maack said.
“It’s not like we had a bad race,” Stone said.
“We ran our best race of the season,” Maack said.
Bailey coveted another team title – more so than his personal feats.
“It’d be sad if we don’t get the team title,” Bailey said shortly after his final event, the 200. “All my stuff will mean nothing if we don’t win the team championship. That’s all I care about. All seven of us who came here worked our butts off.”
The Curtis girls captured a state title, finishing with 62 points. Auburn Riverside was second (55).
Other area athletes winning medals: Lewis and Clark junior Brennan Schon took fourth in the boys long jump (22-½); Ferris senior Carson Fuller placed third in the boys javelin (191-10) while Mead senior Sam Hilmes took fifth (181-4); the Mead girls 400 relay took third (49.16); Mead senior Tymen Grant was sixth in the girls 100 (12.64); Gonzaga Prep sophomore Kayla Leland placed fifth in the girls 400 (58.63); and Ferris senior Maya Bowton was seventh in the girls pole vault (10-0) while Mead senior Matalya Pawluk was eighth (10-0).