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Path of persistence

Academic issues, rocky football seasons aren't enough to dampen Kevin Spivey's winning spirit.

By BRIAN SUMERS
Published February 24, 2006


CRYSTAL RIVER - Two seasons ago, Kevin Spivey couldn't participate in track meets. He didn't have the grades.

Instead, he came to every practice, training until sweat soaked through his shirt. He did not miss one and hasn't in the three years he has attended Crystal River.

"I can run him into the ground and he'll still come back tomorrow," said his coach, Tim Byrne. "He's old school."

Sprinting, hurdling and pole vaulting come easy to Spivey, whose father, David, earned four track letters at Auburn in the early 1980s. But though the younger Spivey advanced to the state championships last season, the junior will not rest on his laurels.

Spivey is serious about winning, and he knows there is always more training.

"He doesn't give up," junior teammate Joe Greer said. "If he sees he's losing, he's going to run as fast as he can."

His father and his coach said Spivey would never touch alcohol or drugs because he cares too much about his health. He has just two vices: running and football.

"Whenever I'm bored, I run," Spivey said. "Whenever I get mad, I run."

His chiseled frame makes him a fine football player, too. But his height - generously listed on the football roster as 5-foot-8 - slows him down some against larger opponents. Still, the running back and linebacker didn't miss any practices, dedicating himself to a team that won only two games.

Many players left the team during the season, citing the Pirates' poor record. Spivey stayed because he is not a quitter. He does not, however, enjoy losing.

As a track star, Spivey wins a lot. As a football player, he does not. And now he wants to do something about it.

After Crystal River dismissed coach Craig Frederick following back-to-back 2-8 seasons, Spivey approached principal Patrick Simon, saying he had never been on a football team with a winning record. Not in middle school. Not in high school. Never.

Simon asked if he wanted to help pick the new football coach. Spivey agreed. He is a full member of the search committee, asking questions during interviews and contributing during evaluation meetings. Even if the Pirates do not reach the .500 mark next season, Spivey wants to ensure Crystal River's era of losing football is over.

He dedicates himself to the interview process, often missing classes to participate. Sometimes he must come when students don't have school. But mindful of what happened two seasons ago, he always makes up his schoolwork.

While Spivey knows he's not a "study nerd," he promises himself he will never be academically ineligible again.

Spivey relishes the team competition of football, but with a father who was a nationally competitive pole vaulter two decades ago, Spivey is mostly a track star. And though Byrne said pole vaulters are usually taller, the coach said Spivey has the type of fast-twitch muscles that could earn him a college scholarship.

He has impressed Byrne this season by vaulting 12 feet in the team's first meet - about the same height Brett Miller reached early last season. Miller, now graduated, won last season's Class 2A title by jumping 14 feet, 6 inches.

A year ago, Miller was the talk of Crystal River track. Now that baton has been passed to Spivey, who is not crazy about the attention. He would rather stay anonymous.

"Mentally, he is real shy," David Spivey said. "He doesn't like to talk about himself. He's kind of a loner."

David Spivey is a volunteer assistant coach and watches his son practice most days. He acknowledges they have some athletic similarities, though they do not share personalities.

"I was nuts," his father said. "I was going to be a Hollywood stunt man. I was a daredevil. Kevin isn't like that. He's smarter.

Spivey said he knows about his father's daredevil past, but prefers not to talk about it. He also does not want to speak about his grandmother, Helen Spivey, the former city council member and state representative.

Spivey prefers to just focus on football and track. But his grandmother, who is now known for helping save Crystal River's manatee population, has rubbed off a little on Spivey.

"We live on the water and he knows what they are," David Spivey said. "And he doesn't like boats hitting them because Grandma Spivey says so."

Brian Sumers can be reached at bsumers@sptimes.com or 564-3628.

[Last modified February 24, 2006, 06:14:02]


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