Spencer runs toward North Carolina
WEIRTON, W.Va. — Those who followed Sebastian Spencer with a close eye throughout his high school career at Weir High are left to wonder what could have been.
Spencer was entering his senior season as a seven-time West Virginia state track champion (three individuals and four relays), while also holding multiple state and school records. However, due to spring sports being canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, this is all Weir High fans and Spencer received.
Friday was not about asking what if and what could have been, though. Friday was Spencer’s send-off to the University of North Carolina to continue his academic and track careers. The fastest man in Weir High history looked forward to this day for the past four years, and there was no way this was not going to happen.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to reach the collegiate level,” Spencer said. “Just to be here right now feels amazing. It definitely helps to know I have a place I can call home for the next four years running track. Even though I’m losing this track season, I look forward to having another four years of running track.
“I’m just glad I left on a good note with good memories and good races. I know I left a good impact on West Virginia and my legacy here.”
With schools closed, Spencer had to gather the crowd of more than 20 people in the Weir High parking lot for the signing.
Along with his family, coaches and trainers, 10 seniors showed their support. And, everybody wore Tar Heel blue.
“They’re my closest friends. I’ve know these guys since Day 1,” Spencer said. “They mean everything to me, and I’m definitely going to miss them when I leave. I know this is definitely a special moment for me, but it’s also a special moment for them because they’ve motivated me a lot to work hard. They always told me, ‘You’re going places.’ I had to have them here.”
Among the group was head boys track coach Tom Taylor. He is in his sixth year in his second stint, while also coaching from 1989-1999 at Weir High. He agreed that Spencer is the fastest athlete he ever coached.
“I coached all of the Spencers,” Taylor said. “I coached (his father) Gerard (Spencer) in 1989 when he broke a school record. Then I coached (his brother) Donavan (Spencer), who broke another school record. Then there was Sebastian, who had his own marks breaking more records.”
Last season, Spencer won four state titles as he cruised to victory in the 100 meters (10.60 seconds ) and 200 meters (21.61) and he ran the anchor leg on the 4×100 (43.89) and 4×200 (1:30.43).
“He looked at Tennessee and Ohio State, as well,” Taylor said. “I believe he made a great decision, but losing his senior season maybe affected his options, as with other seniors across the country. Fortunately for him, he had a great offer still available just based on what he did during his junior season.”
Along with the track offers, Sebastian Spencer also received seven Division I offers to play football, his first love. Planning on attending law school in the near future, many reasons led to him choosing track.
“My plan was to be a collegiate football player. But, with recent success in track, I believe this is my path,” he said. “My highest chance at success is on the track with less stress in my body. It’ll also be a little easier balancing school with track compared to football.”
A school like UNC also was Sebastian Spencer’s dream that began with his mother, Franki Spencer. She has loved UNC her whole life, namely basketball. In fact, when they visited the campus, Sebastian Spencer took her to her first basketball game.
That was one of the moments when he realized UNC is the school for him. Another occurred earlier in his life when his friends put together a travel basketball team and called themselves the Tar Heels.
“I still have (the jersey) in my closet,” Sebastian Spencer said.
Track, obviously, is where Sebastian Spencer shined the brightest. However, he also starred on the gridiron, on the basketball court and on the diamond. Not running track for his senior season is a big disappointment, but baseball is just as big.
“I love those guys. I love all the guys I played in every sport with, especially baseball,” he said. “We were looking to have a really good season. Not playing hurt my heart knowing I’ll never be able to play baseball with them again. But, I know those guys will have good teams in the future because I know they’ll all work really hard. Us seniors really installed into them that they have to work really hard to be successful.”
One of his favorite memories in the spring came a few years back. Sebastian Spencer was running in the regional track tournament, while the baseball squad also made the regional round. Both took place at North Marion. He was able to do his thing on the track, then sprinted to the diamond and played the final inning.
Overall, he mainly attended baseball practices and ran for track on his own time. All of this coming after grueling football and basketball seasons.
Sebastian Spencer plans on competing in the 100 meters and 4×100 and 4×400 relay relays at UNC. In football, he twice was honored as a first-team all-state selection as a defensive back, although everyone knows he played at the highest level at nearly every position.
This spring was an eventful one for Sebastian Spencer. He was being recruited, had to deal with Weir High baseball looking for a new coach and, of course, the pandemic. His signing day was a positive everybody in Weirton needed, even if it only was for an hour or two.
“It’s very disappointing not just because he’s older, but also because of the amount of work he put in,” Taylor said. “He worked nonstop all fall, all winter and all spring. It’s really devastating for him and his family because we know he would’ve done more exceptional things. There would’ve been a lot more.
“This is something he can at least hold on to, to know that something great and positive is still happening. I’m really happy for him and his family to have something positive come out of this in a time that has been a negative.”