At this time a year ago, Newport’s Kolby Spink was hoping to be one of the seven runners on the varsity team as a sophomore.
But as Spink enters his junior year, his goals are drastically different. And why wouldn’t they be? After all, he ended the season as the Cubs’ fastest runner on a team that would end up finishing third at the state meet — by finishing seventh, the youngest runner on the podium.
This year, he has his sights set on the top step of the podium and running faster than any Newport runner has run before.
“I’m trying to get first in the state, I don’t know if it’s going to happen but I’m trying to push for that,” Spink said. “If I can do that, I’m trying to get the school record.”
To do that, he would be the first Newport runner to claim a state title since Rhy Reynolds finished first in 1996. The jump that Spink made between his freshman and sophomore year, or even the jump he made from the start of his sophomore year until the state meet, was both shocking and unexpected for Spink
“I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Spink said. “But I trained the whole year to do that so I’m glad that it happened.”
It was even a bit of a surprise for Newport head coach Tom Swinford, who saw Spink as a varsity runner, but during practices when Kolby would refuse to be beaten, people began taking notice.
“He was kinda slow,” said head coach Tom Swinford comparing Spink’s early time to later in the season. “That big heart of his and the training he put in made that happen. He put a significant stamp where people would say “dang, Kolby!’ Kolby became the leader of the bunch where everyone is trying to catch Kolby, and Kolby then was like ‘if you’re going to catch, you’re going to have to earn it.’”
Newport has already run one race — the 3K Wilsonville Night Race — and if that race is any indication of the year-long improvement, Spink finished over 35 seconds faster than last year, finishing in 9:26 compared to his 10:00.88 a year ago.
“He has the heart to do it, his preliminary results say he can do it. At practice he won’t
Spink’s work ethic has been contagious amongst a Newport team primed to make a run at a state title. By competing the way he does at practice, it makes the other runners work as hard to keep up and even try and beat him.
“Kolby is a great kid, he’s generous to a fault, he’s not pompous,” Swinford said. “(The mindset of the other runners is) We are going to try and catch you, we might not catch you, but we are going to work just as hard, we aren’t going to give it to you either.”
The numbers back up how Spink feels about his speed. He spent the offseason running anywhere between 35-40 miles a week with one rest day. But what could have helped Spink make the biggest jump was attending the Steens Mountain Running Camp, a nationally renowned running camp in the Steens Mountain range. It was there that he ran 28-mile hike/runs.
“I will probably never feel that pain running again,” Spink said.
Adding more fuel to the fire will be competing in one of the more loaded conferences. In the Oregon West Conference is Stayton (last year’s state runner-up), Sisters (sixth-place finishers) as well as Philomath, which
“They are really going to push me to be my best. That will really help me,” Spink said. “I’m pretty sure they are out to get revenge.”