Four years can do a lot for a student-athlete.
In that time frame, Brusly’s Ta’la Spates went from someone who didn’t prioritize the sport of track to one of the most decorated track athletes in the school’s history and a 13-time state champion.
It could be inferred that that’s what the senior sprinter was born to do since her mother, Tia Lee, was a star sprinter at Southern Lab and Louisiana Tech and that Spates took her first lap around a track when she was a little kid in a walker.
Spates said she and her mother talk about a lot of things, it’s just that sport they both love is rarely one of those topics.
“We barely talk about track,” she said. “My mom never forced me to run. She’s never been the parent that tries to be a coach. If I need anything, she’s always open and willing to help.”
Spates said her competitive dominance in the sport came much later than her time in a walker as a youngster— as in her freshman year of high school.
“Track was brought to me as fun and games,” the senior recalled in an interview Monday. “My momma always used to tell me she didn’t have the money to pay for me to go to college. She told me I would need to do something to get a scholarship. “I didn’t start taking track seriously until my freshman year. My first 400 state championship as a freshman. That’s when the light bulb went off for me.”
That light bulb has helped carry the UL Lafayette signee to a copious amount of state titles, two of which she added to her collection last weekend at LSU as a member of the 4x200 and 4x400 relay teams.
One event that Spates did not win over the weekend was her signature race, the 400-meter dash, which she finished third in.
Spates had been battling an illness that plagued her leading up to the regional event, which played a part in her failing to qualify in the 100-meter dash.
That same illness lasted nearly two weeks before Spates said she started feeling better just three days before the state meet.
“I have to zone out,” Spates said. “I think that was my problem at state. “I was overthinking it. My best races are when I’m not thinking at all. I just go out and run.”
Brusly’s head track coach, Trent Ellis, has been coaching Spates since she was eight years old. He also coached her mother.
“I’m very proud of her,” Ellis said. “I’ve had her since she was eight years old. “It’s always good to have a kid you can trust to lead the team. She’s a true leader.”
Thirteen state championships later, Spates took time to reflect on her time she donned the scarlet, gold and black at Brusly.
“I never really wrapped my mind around it,” she said. “I never thought I’d be getting ready to run for a great university. I’m just so grateful.
“I had to dry my tears at state,” she continued. “Everything happens for a reason. I’m just ready to see what happens in college. I’m excited.”