In Ta'la Spates fashion, the senior track star announced to family and friends where she would spend her college career academically and athletically during a ceremony Thursday night in the Brusly High gym.
She will be a Ragin' Cajun.
Spates opted to head down I-10 to attend the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. UL Lafayette beat out Southern Miss, the University of Houston and Louisiana Tech, where both of her parents attended and ran track.
She kept the suspense alive all the way up to the last minute when she unzipped her jacket to reveal a UL Lafayette logo.
"You don't see many track people do it differently. I’m like ‘no, I’m extra, I had to go a little extra,' I had to put a little Ta'la in it," Spates said with a chuckle... " I was jumping between UL, Southern Miss and Houston. I was feeling Tech, but I didn’t want to live in my parents’ shoes. I wanted to start my own journey, my own destiny and make my own legacy."
Spates explained she was sold on what UL Lafayette had to offer from the beginning, ranging from the campus to the track team.
"It just really felt like home," she stated. "When I went on my visit, I fell in love with the campus, I fell in love with the team, I fell in love with the coaches and I just had a great feeling when I went there. Although I enjoyed my visits to the other schools, it was just something about UL, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I’d go visit other schools and I would be like ‘this is nice, but UL had this.’ I just couldn’t get it out of my head."
For Brusly head coach Trent Ellis, Thursday's event was a culmination of hard work that paid off.
"Ta’la is a special one," he said. "I’ve had her since she was seven years old. She’s like my daughter. Years of hard work, we’ve had to change workouts here and there just to fit where she is. We’ve had tears, we’ve had fights, so it’s a culmination of a long time coming."
Ellis said he expects Spates to be a key cog in the resurgence of Ragin' Cajun track.
"She’s going to be a game changer for their program," he said. "Knowing that the new coaches that are coming in are trying to rebuild their program and start over, she’s going to be a key cog to that. She’s going to help them get other athletes in. She’s going to come in and be one of their best athletes from the get go. She’s going to help them get their program where it used to be."
Spates has her sights set on the indoor state championship, set for Saturday. She said she is aiming for the Division II meet record time in the 400-meter dash of 57.96 set by Rachel Misher in 2015.
At a qualifier meet Jan. 19 at LSU, Spates posted a personal record of 57.35
"I'm praying that I can have a good day like that again," she said.