Pirate sprinter takes eighth place in state

James Spencer - Courtesy photo
James Spencer
— image credit: Courtesy photo

A 283-mile drive and 90-degree weather were not enough to prevent Pirate sprinter James Spencer from coming home with a medal from the 1A Track and Field State Championships at Eastern Washington University in Cheney.

On Friday, Woodward Field offered as little shade as the climate did mercy for the preliminaries. With no breeze to aid him, Spencer had to fight as hard against the heat as he did his opponents; coming off the final turn, he was in fifth place, but put on a final, dramatic burst to pass his nearest competitor and stop the clock at 52.81 seconds, which was good enough to qualify for finals the next day.

Saturday brought slightly cooler conditions for the 400-meter final, but also a field of eight with speed as blistering as the weather from the day prior.

Spencer called on all his skill, speed and determination, but finished in 52.63 seconds and settled for eighth place. Nonetheless, the final race of the season did not put a damper on what he had accomplished over its course.

“I felt all right with my performance. I would’ve liked to have set a personal record, but I was happy to get (a medal) and place in the state finals,” said Spencer, who then added, “And I have two years left to win.”

Head coach Rick Sassara, who has guided Spencer over the past two seasons, also heaped high praise on his star sprinter.

“I was really proud of him; it’s an extremely competitive league and district and to even get to state is saying a lot,” Sassara. “He’s worked as hard as anyone on the team; he deserved to get there, and to not only get there, but get to the finals is a fantastic achievement.”

Sassara was asked to sum up the 2009 season and did so in one word: inspiring.

“I was really excited about how well everybody did and how they grew as a team,” he said. “Every week was better than the last and the amount of personal records we had had to be in the hundreds. Every race seemed to be better, and individual performances were inspiring.”

— Aaron Calhoun is the track and field team’s distance coach.

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