When Sarah Burns took over as coach for the Curtis High track and field program two years ago, there was a certain meet she decided to try and get back onto the schedule.
The Washington State University graduate was the Pasco Invite’s Most Outstanding Athlete in 2003. She knew the Pasco meet is better than running dual meets on the West Side, and wanted her athletes to experience competing against high level talent early in the season.
The only problem was the track and field budget was being used to attend other meets. So a trip to Pasco seemed unlikely this season, until parents stepped forward to pay for it.
Curtis High is a Class 4A school in University Place, which is west of Tacoma.
“It has always been a big deal for our school to go,” Burns said. “I tell all the kids, it’s like a mini state championship meet. It is good to see this level of competition, especially for the younger kids that haven’t been through it.”
The 52nd Pasco Invitational kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday at Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco, with more than 1,400 athletes from 110 schools competing.
While some school districts won’t let their athletic teams travel across the state to attend sporting events because of budget constraints, that isn’t a problem for Curtis athletes.
The Vikings sent their boys basketball team to Hawaii, cross country to California, water polo out of state, and lacrosse to Portland.
“My fundamental belief is that you have to compete against the best to beat the best,” said Terry Jenks, Curtis High’s athletic director . “The Pasco Invite is one where you will be competing against the best in the state. It comes at a good time for the athletes to fine-tune their efforts and do good in the league meets and then, obviously, at state.”
The school attended the Pasco Invite from 2002-06, before taking a break until 2012.
“The organizers have done a great job,” Jenks said. “We always talk about giving our sons and daughters the best opportunity to win a state championship, and that is what the Pasco Invite gives.”
And Curtis has plenty of daughters that might be winning state championships this season.
Among the athletes the Vikings will bring to Pasco are Kennadi Bouyer, Kira Perkins and Kenya Shakoor. Bouyer is the defending state champion in the 100- and 200-meter run and has signed to compete at the University of Mississippi in the fall on a full-ride athletic scholarship.
She also runs on the school’s 4x100-meter relay, which will go up against defending Class 3A state champion Kamiakin High in Kennewick, as well as strong teams from Kennewick’s Southridge High and Jesuit High in Portland.
“That will be a great race,” Bouyer said. “I can’t wait to go against them. It was really close (last year). They push us.” Kamiakin won last year’s title in 48.84 seconds, while Curtis was second at 48.91.
Bouyer also will be competing in the long jump and triple jump, an event she added this year as she was recruited as a jumper.
She has only done the event twice, but already has gone 38 feet, 1 inch. Burns was also a triple jumper in high school and college, and Curtis produced Andrea Geubelle, who competes for Kansas and took second at the NCAA meet last season and third at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene last summer.
“We just always had great jumpers,” Bouyer said. “I’m not sure what is in the Curtis water.”
She cited the work of Flying AJ’s Track Club coach Nate Wilford for helping her succeed.
While Bouyer has her college plans locked up, Perkins is still looking. She has the longest jump in the field, going 39-5.5 at the Arcadia Invitational last weekend in California.
“At the beginning of the year, we tell the kids we only have so many spots for Pasco,” Burns said. “It gives them something to look forward to, or a goal. And the kids who have never gone, they try their hardest to make it.”
And this year they’ll get that chance, thanks to the generosity of a few parents.