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Central Valley’s Sarah Pecha, Alivia Mulligan, Olivia Sine, Fiona Hart and Anessa Yim during track and field practice at Central Valley High School on Monday, May 6, 2019. The CV Bears girls team is undefeated in the Greater Spokane League for the eighth-straight year. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

CV girls credit eight straight GSL track and field championships to teamwork

At the start of every spring season, Central Valley girls track coach Geoff Arte posts a list of every athlete to have been part of the program since the 2010 season.

For a program that always has more than 100 athletes turn out for the sport every year, it’s a long list.

“I tell the girls that they owe each and every one of those athletes their very best effort, every day,” Arte explains. “I tell them that we are all standing on the shoulders of the people that came before us.

“I know I am. Bill Berg, Dennis McGuire, Steve Bernard – even boys coach Chuck Bowden. We’re all reaping the rewards of the what these people did.”

“The print on that list is really small,” senior Molly McCormick said. “But you really want to compete hard for the names who are on that list.”

This year’s Bears squad has proudly added to that long-standing legacy, winning the Greater Spokane League dual-meet crown for the eighth straight season.

“We’ve won or shared the GSL League title the last eight years,” Arte said. “We shared the title in 2013 and 2018. We lost to Mead in 2011.”

Junior distance runner Emily Heskett wanted to make sure that accomplishment received recognition.

“Our senior athletes are graduating with four straight years of championship titles and no losses, which is an impeccable record,” she wrote in her email. “Very few schools have such an amazing girls program.”

Heskett even quoted a locker room speech Arte gave.

“Our head coach, Geoff Arte, has always told us one thing in particular: ‘If a football team did what we do, wins every single game for (eight) years straight, they would be legends,’ ” she quoted. “Our team is successful because of our skill in the field and on the track; our ability to work together is what has made us great.”

That a junior distance runner would take the initiative and call for some recognition for her teammates says a great deal about Heskett and everything about just how Central Valley’s program has been built.

“Emily is one of my favorite success stories,” Arte said, laughing. “She’s never scored a varsity point for us, but her mother was a state champion sprinter at University. When Emily got here as a freshman we had her running the 400 meters, but she could never break 75 seconds. This year we shifted her over to run distances, and she’s worked super hard. She turned out and ran cross country for me.

“She broke six minutes in the 1,600 at a meet and you would have thought that she’d just run a four-minute mile. Everyone was celebrating with her and so happy for her. She’s a great kid.”

That kind of support is organic at CV.

“It has always been that way at CV,” senior Ahna Duggan said. “Everyone is really kind to one another, even if we’re not that close to one another, we’re all going to be supportive. It just comes with how everyone here is really kind, and that vibe keeps getting passed down through the generations.”

Track and field is a team sport, but as much as schools compete against one another, the real competition comes at a different level for each and every athlete.

“That’s what’s important,” Arte said. “You’re competing against yourself. If you compete as hard as you can every day, then you’ve done all we can ask of you.”

Coming into the season, the coach said, there was some concern for the CV winning streak. The Bears graduated a bunch of exceptionally talented seniors from a year ago and some of last year’s juniors had struggled with injuries.

“Last year we were a good dual-meet team and a good big meet team,” Arte said. “This year we’re probably in a holding pattern when it comes to the state meet, but we have a really good group of sophomores coming along, and I think we’re going to be really good.”

Past teams have probably had more talent, the coach said. But this 2019 squad has something even more important.

“I’ll take this team over any of my others,” he said. “This is a tough, gritty bunch, and they work hard. They’re low ego and high work ethic.”

Central Valley and the rest of the GSL will be at CV today and Friday for the district-qualifying meet. Next week qualifiers will head to Richland for the District 8 Championship meet to qualify for state.

“We’re in the home stretch, and it feels like we’re just now warming up,” the coach said, laughing. “At least we finally have some good weather to compete in.

“I think we’re about where we should be despite getting such a late start. I think maybe our 400-meter kids and our hurdlers may be a tad bit behind. Sprinters can get their work in in the hallway if they need to, but it’s tough to get in a 400-meter or a hurdles workout unless you’re on the track.”

On the other hand, he said, there is an added benefit.

“Most years we’re trying to patch kids together this time of year – trying to get them healthy enough to compete,” he said. “That’s not the case this year. We’re all pretty healthy.”