OHS track star Kacey Spinks finds success on and off the track
By Morgan Bryce
For most high school graduates, the summer is a time for sleeping in or hanging out with their friends as much as they can. But for newly-graduated Opelika High School track star Kacey Spinks, summertime is business as usual. He spends his time running and practicing for upcoming tournaments and the start of his collegiate athletic career.
Spinks, a life-long Opelika resident, found his passion for running at a young age while watching his sister run.
“I was about 6-years-old, and my older sister Kala started running at the rec center. After watching her for a couple of years, I knew I wanted to run too,” Spinks said.
Starting at eight-years-old, Spinks began his track career and never looked back.
Through the years, he maintained a hectic schedule involving football in the fall, indoor track in winter and outdoor track in the spring. Opelika Track and Field Director Jimmy Johnson took over in the fall of 2011, Spinks’ freshman year. He said he noticed Spinks’ talent right away.
“Kacey wasn’t the fastest or most talented guy we had, but he worked hard. He showed up every day eager to go out there and get better. I knew Kacey, with a lot of work, would one day have the potential to be good,” Johnson said.
The full workload started weighing heavily on Spinks during his freshman and sophomore years, and he said he realized he needed to apply the same effort in the classroom as he did in track in order to have a chance of competing collegiately.
“My freshman and sophomore years were really tough times for me, and my GPA dropped below Division I eligibility. I knew if I wanted to go do track in college or run in the Olympics that I would need to work even harder in the classroom than on the track to be able to pursue my dreams,” Spinks said.
His hard work and dedication paid off, and he improved his GPA enough to be eligible for Division I track scholarships.
Spinks’ participated in more than 10 individual events in his high school career and also contributed to the team’s 4×200 and 4×400 meter relays.
He said his breakthrough moment came in his senior season when he won the AHSAA’s indoor championship in the 60 meter hurdles event.
“I won by two seconds, and that win really helped me get noticed by a lot of really good track programs at colleges all over,” Spinks said.
Because of Spinks’ breakout senior year on the national track scene, he was nominated for Gatorade’s National Athlete of the Year and received an invitation to compete in the New Balance National Outdoor 2016 competition in Greensboro, N.C., from June 17-19. The event features a myriad of track and field events that bring together the nation’s top athletes to serve as a showcase of the sport. Spinks said that the chance to compete in this national competition makes him feel like he has accomplished something.
“Man, seeing all this hard work pay off is pretty special. I hope I do well in this New Balance competition, but having the chance to be around all these guys from other places who are so well known is pretty cool. I’m really looking forward to it,” Spinks said.
In the back of his mind, however, is where he will attend school this fall. He received offers from schools both locally and nationally, and over the course of the last few months, has whittled the list of potential schools down to four: Troy, Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State and Florida State.
All four are Division I schools, and Spinks said he’s flattered by the attention.
“I’m honored to have a chance to go compete for any of those programs,” Spinks said. “I’ve visited Troy’s campus once, and hope to get to the other campuses after the NCAA track and field championships end next week.”
Spinks said he has until the end of June to decide where he will attend college. He said he has high ambitions for the next level.
“I want to be able to help whoever I play for to compete for a national championship,” Spinks said. “But, I also have a dream for myself, too, to play in the Olympics. That’s what every track and field person dreams about.”
Johnson said he thinks Spinks’ dream of competing in the Olympics is not fantasy.
“I think Kacey can achieve whatever he sets his mind to,” Johnson said. “He’s proven himself time and time again, both on and off the track, as to what kind of man he can be. I believe as long as he keeps up doing what he’s been doing, the sky’s the limit for Kacey Spinks.”