By Gabriel Stovall
McDONOUGH — Don’t look now, but Alexis High the track and field athlete is catching up with Alexis High the basketball player.
High once had a dream to play basketball in college. But now, more than ever, her thoughts are turning toward excelling on the track. And Eagle’s Landing track coach Claud Spinks says he knows why.
“Success will do that for you,” Spinks said.
Success such as winning individual Region 4-AAAA championships in both shot put and discus this past weekend.
Success such as throwing a personal and school record 39 feet, 11 inches in the shot. The former Eagle’s Landing shot record was 37 feet, 6 inches set and broken twice by High.
Before that, High had a top 10 finish at the Taco Bell Invite in Columbia, SC — a meet where over 3,000 track athletes from more than 300 high schools nationwide participated. And don’t forget about her third and fourth place finishes at the Henry County Championships in the shot and discus respectively.
It’s all given Spinks justification to stick his chest out a bit for his star thrower.
“I’m very, very proud of Alexis,” Spinks said. “She’s a good competitor. I think she’s been overlooked a lot as to how good she is. I think winning two events in the region is awesome, and it puts her in an elite class of track athletes here, and that’s pretty good company.
“And throwing just under 40 feet puts her in another level of shot-putters in the state. Any time you do that against the best competition in the region is pretty special.”
Not bad for someone who couldn’t really find her way around a track before middle school.
“I never knew anything about track until my seventh grade year,” High said. “My best friend Victoria (Foster) decided to try out in the seventh grade, and I told her I’d try with her, but I didn’t want to run. I wanted to throw.”
She wanted to use track to keep her in good basketball shape. After all, it was basketball that the 5-foot-10 forward/center on Eagle’s Landing’s girls hoops squad saw as her passion. Her best sport. Her ticket to college.
Now, with track scholarship offers from Georgia Regents College and Fort Valley State, with a handful of other schools starting to warm up to her, High is starting to think more like her coach when it comes to athletics on the next level.
“You know it’s interesting because she was kind of a hesitant track athlete at first,” Spinks said. But when she came out in 10th grade and placed at state in the shot, college coaches were all over her. Since then, there’s been more focus since she knows that this is probably going to go toward helping her pay for college.
“We tell her that all these people want to talk to you because of throwing, not basketball. She still has to get over that fence, but she’s starting to understand.”
High said it became much more clear to her after coming back from Columbia.
“When I placed in the top 10 in the shot out there, it kind of, like, brought up my confidence a whole lot,” she said. “It was like now that I see the competition and the techniques and everything at the highest level, I said I’d better get myself together soon.”
And Spinks said he saw the difference throughout the duration of the regular season.
“When she came back out here (against local competition), it just wasn’t as daunting,” Spinks said.
Credit that to a colossal rise in High’s confidence. The sport that once was just a strength-builder to help her bang bodies with other post players during basketball season is quickly becoming her preferred mode of competition.
“Because it’s like everybody at a track meet is just in one giant competition,” she said. “Everyone is there to compete and you can’t be scared because somebody is bigger than you or even better than you. Even if they beat you, you work harder and eventually you know you’ll see them again.”
She’s also gained some genuine friendships during her time — friends who aid in her desire to be a complete student of her craft.
“It’s the other throwers like Kendrick Hall and Janay Marzell and Victoria,” she said. “We like going to see different competitions and just watching how different people compete, seeing them thrown and shoeing how far we match up in competition. The throwers, we’re really close. We do a lot of things together every weekend. It’s like a family.”
High’s performance helped the rest of the Eagle’s Landing girls track family win its third straight Region 4-AAAA crown. Spinks said he expects many of those girls to advance to the state meet by being among the top eight finishers in Saturday’s Eagle’s Landing-hosted sectionals.
He expects High to be in that number.
“In the shot-put, she should get out of sectionals just fine,” he said. “Discuss, she should also be fine. She’s going to have to throw well in both because it’s top eight. But if she throws 40 (feet) in the shot at state, she’ll medal. If she throws 105 or better in discus, she’ll be in contention for a medal.”
But Spinks is thinking of even more for his senior thrower.
“If she goes to state and throws over 40, somebody will be right there and say ‘come play for me in college’ on the spot,” he added.
And High, an aspiring medicine and physical therapist major and professional sports trainer — with a 3.3 grade point average at Eagle’s Landing — doesn’t mind considering those options.
“I like both sports,” she said. “If I had to choose, basketball would probably still be my favorite since I’ve been doing it ever since I was five. But if I get a full ride in track, I’m not afraid to do that either.”