Nine years after competing in her first USA Track and Field Championships, Lee’s Summit, MO. native Christine Spence is finally getting the chance to wear the red, white, and blue and represent her country in track and field. While Spence’s athletic abilities have been evident for many years, her most impressive trait may be her determination. Spence is running the 400 meter hurdles at the World Track and Field Championships in Moscow for Team USA.
Spence’ talents were showcased at Lee’s Summit North High School where she lettered in basketball and track. Her speed, hurdling, and jumping ability were evident as she excelled at the prep level. Spence captured Missouri High School state titles in the 100 and 300 meter hurdles and helped the Lee’s Summit North Lady Broncos to the Class 4A State title before graduating in 2000. Spence moved on to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas to compete collegiately. Spence set school and conference records while excelling in the high jump, 400 meter hurdles, and the 4×400 meter relay. As a redshirt junior in 2004, Spence qualified for the Olympic Trials, placing 14th in the 400 hurdles. Spence competed in four NCAA Division I Championships, qualifying in four different events: the 4×400, high jump, 400 hurdles, and the indoor pentathlon, while qualifying for the high jump and 400 hurdles at both the 2004 and 2005 outdoor meets.
Spence displayed her determination as a senior when at the NCAA Indoor Championships when after four events; she finished the pentathlon’s final event, the 800 meters in 2:13. It was four seconds off the meet event record and 10 seconds ahead of Southwest Missouri State’s Tracy Partain, to leapfrog Spence over the Springfield, MO native, into eighth place and earning Spence the final trophy. Spence ended her career with the Running Rebels having earned four NCAA individual trophies (top eight) with best finishes of 8th–Indoor Pentathlon, 7th-400 Hurdles, and 6th-High Jump, while adding a ninth place in the 4×400.
After college, Spence entered the world of post-collegiate track and field. In the US that can mean two athletes lining up next to each other while one maybe a world-wide celebrity with a Olympic fame and a multi-million dollar bank account, and the other is working three jobs and barely has the time or energy to adequately train or get the needed physical treatment to stay competitive.
Just like soccer, track and field sees much more fanfare around the world than in the United States. While it is one of the most participated sports at the high school level in the country, its popularity spikes with the Olympics every four years and is not regularly a spectator sport for the masses. Athletes represent their countries at international events like the Olympics and biennial World Championships, but most of the time they are on their own. Again there is no professional league where teams can draft athletes. While a handful of athletes leave college eligibility behind to turn professional and sign a sponsorship contract with a shoe company.
To be continued…