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Mead’s Joseph Heitman aims to medal in four events at state track meet

Mead athletes, from left, Thomas Dammarell, Pierce Christensen and Joseph Heitman work on their hurdles technique  in preparation for state competition. Heitman takes part in hurdles, relays and long jump. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Mead athletes, from left, Thomas Dammarell, Pierce Christensen and Joseph Heitman work on their hurdles technique in preparation for state competition. Heitman takes part in hurdles, relays and long jump. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Mead track and field coach John Mires has had some nice compliments paid to his program over the years.

One involving his standout hurdler and jumper Joseph Heitman ranks near the top.

Heitman’s family was planning to move to Spokane before his sophomore year. During spring break when he was a freshman at Puyallup High near Tacoma, the Heitmans took a trip to Spokane to scout potential schools.

Joseph and his brother Benjamin, a year older, toured Mead, Mt. Spokane, Shadle Park and West Valley. They trimmed it two – Mead and Mt. Spokane.

“I really liked Mt. Spokane. The people there were very welcoming,” Heitman said.

Heitman qualified for state later that spring in the 300-meter hurdles and 1,600 relay. At the state meet, his father, encouraged by Puyallup’s coaches, sought out Mires and Mt. Spokane coaches.

The Heitmans had heard that Mires was a hurdler in college. That’s his area of expertise. Mires would be the perfect coach for Heitman, the Puyallup coaches told the family.

So the Heitmans made another trip to Spokane. Mires gave them a tour at Mead. Heitman was convinced he should land at Mead.

“I wanted more athletes to push me every day in practice and Mead was really deep with athletes,” Heitman, now a junior, said.

Mires was pleased Heitman chose Mead, but the coach said Mt. Spokane would have been a good fit as well.

Heitman has grown close to Mires – and not just because the two of them share a passion for hurdling. Mires’ son, John, is also a junior and he and Heitman are best friends.

“Coach Mires has had such an influence in so many things that I do,” Heitman said. “We talk every day. I’ve never had a coach that knows as much as he does. And his insight on life – about decision making, about life on and off the track and about leadership. If you ask his opinion, he gives an honest opinion.”

Heitman ran the 110 high hurdles regularly at Puyallup but forsook them last year because the league had a pair of talented seniors, including Mead’s Bryan Anderson.

Heitman spent more time with the 300 hurdles, the long jump and relays. He went to state in four events and earned medals in the 300 hurdles, long jump and 400 relay.

He qualified for state last weekend in both hurdles, the long jump and the 400 relay. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Heitman could win three individual titles and team for a title in the 400 relay.

He sees himself scoring 30-plus points at state, which begins Thursday and finishes Saturday at Mount Tahoma High in Tacoma. That could be a combination of two or more state titles and two high placings.

Heitman took over the top spot in the 4A state rankings in the long jump when he leaped a personal-best 23 feet, 6 inches at regionals.

He’s one-hundredth of a second behind state leader Germain Barnes of Chiawana in the 110 hurdles – though Heitman beat Barnes in the regional final. Heitman is ranked third in the 300 hurdles.

The 400 relay is ranked third. Chiawana, which Mead beat at regionals, is first and Curtis is second.

Heitman runs the second and longest leg on the relay – about 120 meters compared to shorter legs by the others. It’s a strategic move to take advantage of his speed.

Senior Thomas Dammarell, who is Mead’s second-best hurdler and pushes Heitman, anchors the relay.

“I told him he’s a senior and he gets to pick which leg he wants to run,” Heitman said.

Heitman’s personal best is 14.44 in the 110 hurdles, .26 off Anderson’s school record, and his personal best is 38.66 in the 300 hurdles, .46 off the school record.

He’s 2 inches short of the school record in the long jump.

It wouldn’t surprise Mires if Heitman leaves Tacoma owning all three records.

“The thing that makes Joseph so phenomenal is his speed,” Mires said. “His strength has gotten better and that’s helped the speed game.”

Track isn’t the only sport that Heitman is leaving a mark. He started last fall at wide receiver in football, finishing with 47 receptions for 840 yards and a team-leading 13 touchdowns.

Heitman was the Panthers’ deep threat thanks to his speed. Several times he hauled in catches in stride as he broke free behind the defense.

He’ll be counted on heavily this fall.

“He ran by people last year and we get him back,” Mead football coach Benji Sonnichsen said.

College recruiters have visited Mead often this spring. Sonnichsen said what has caught their attention about Heitman isn’t so much that he’s fast, but that he does the hurdles.

“They like to hear that,” Sonnichsen said. “He’s on a lot of college recruiting boards. He’ll have options.”

Heitman said if he were leaning toward a sport for college, it would be track. But he’s keeping his options open.

The athletic genes run in the family. His father played on two state title football teams at Sunset High in Beaverton, Oregon. His grandfather, a 1945 Lewis and Clark graduate, ran hurdles.

There’s one other key aspect to Heitman’s success. He carries a 3.9 grade-point average. He’s had one B, that coming in athletic director John Barrington’s trigonometry class.

“In everything he does, the sky’s the limit,” Mires said. “One of the great things is we have him one more year.”

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