McDONOUGH — It’s been 15 years since Eagle’s Landing High brought in a coach by the name of Claud Spinks, and over that time, he’s watched the track scene in the county grow.
Over those 15 years, Spinks had become an ingrained figure in Henry County as one of the premier coaches in the county. As the county grew, it was up to Spinks and Union Grove’s Eric Daugherty to help the sport grow around the county.
But the time has come for Spinks to hang up the shoes of coaching and pass the torch, a decision he felt was time.
“In the life of most coaches, there comes time to make a decision,” Spinks said. “Keep coaching or step back. Sometimes this happens when coaches become fathers or have children they would like to spend time with. Other times, such as with myself, things in life change and your priorities change. Having coached for a long time and with my own children grown, I felt it was time to spend time with my wife. When I was an athletic director and head coach of two sports, there were many, many 90-plus-hour weeks. It is time to try and catch up. None of us know what the future holds, so we are going to start working on our bucket list now.”
This won’t be a farewell for him at Eagle’s Landing, though. Far from it actually. He’ll still be a teacher at the school, but he’s got more on his plate to deal with. For the first time in 34 years, he’s returning to college to pursue his master’s degree, and he’ll still have a hand in hosting cross country and track meets.
“I love teaching and plan on being at Eagle’s Landing for quite a few more years,” Spinks said. “I will still host cross country and track meets, but I do plan on traveling with my wife on our breaks.”
The way he coached was polarizing and commanded attention from the athletes who worked under him. He’s been able to see how the track scene has grown in Henry County as well. Spinks remembers when he started working in Henry County, there were no all-weather tracks to host events at. He also recalls how Stockbridge had some success in track and Eagle’s Landing had other moments of success in events.
But that was 15 years ago.
“Now our county is one of the best in the state,” Spinks said. “Year after year, the county improved. Not just in a few events but across all 16 events. I like to think that we at Eagle’s Landing High have had a part in this growth with our teams and with the number of meets we have brought to the county. I think this year was a high mark. Three out of the four podium teams in AAAAA boys were from Henry County.”
There is more, though, that Spinks can remember. He thinks back to a fond memory of his out of the 15 years: the first year he coached cross country. That’s a season he’ll never really forget.
“Expectations were that our team wasn’t going to be very good,” Spinks said. “The girls became very, very fast and were getting attention in the southeast region cross country rankings. The boys were also running well, and we thought we had a shot at a podium. We didn’t have a good region meet and things looked really bleak, but the guys came through at the state meet and we ended up fourth in the state. The joy those guys showed that day will always stay with me.”
All schools in Henry County have improved their facilities and tracks over the past few years. With the main storyline being the improvement of the football fields, a sub-component in all of the change was the tracks that surround the football fields. Spinks said he appreciates the efforts of former Henry Athletic Coordinator Vicki Davis and current Henry Athletic Director Curt Miller for the facility upgrades.
But even so, the legacy Spinks leaves behind on the track is felt all around the county, not just at Eagle’s Landing. However, if it is only felt at the Golden Eagles’ domain, it’ll transcend anyway.
“I hope that we set a standard of doing things the right way — following the rules, team first while still caring for each athlete individually, loyalty to the blue and gold, and promoting the sports of cross country and track as more than just a means to an end but something worth doing as sport,” Spinks said of his legacy at Eagle’s Landing. “I say ‘we’ because there have been a lot of assistants who did an amazing job and taught me a lot.”
The next wave of coaches are going to take over in Spinks’ departure, but he’s confident in their capabilities — including Wallace Santee.
“The track program is in great hands with Coach Santee,” Spinks said. “I have been his assistant for the last couple of years, and he is an amazing sprint and relay coach. His vision for the team will take it to even higher levels in the future.”