For those that are unaware, the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas is known as the “Track Capital of the World.” It’s a city where legendary coach John McDonnell has assembled an amazing Track & Field program at the University of Arkansas. It’s home to a Razorback program that has produced several heralded track stars, including the incredibly fast Olympic sprinter Wallace Spearmon Jr. Wallace was raised in Fayetteville, where he played a ton of sports but admits he was a little bit of a troublemaker. Growing up, he played baseball, basketball, soccer, and football and ran track. He didn’t even make the track team in 7th or 10th grade, and told me he “wasn’t that fast.” He says, “I didn’t have a passion for track like I did for team sports like football, but track came naturally; it was easy for me. My dad ran track, and it was by far my best sport.”
He was part of a group of athletes that called themselves “Fayetteville’s Finest.” It included several talented athletes from different sports, including Wallace and now-pro basketball players Ronnie Brewer and Mike Conley Jr., among others. Conley’s father, Mike Sr., ran track at the University of Arkansas with Wallace’s dad, Wallace Spearmon Sr.
In high school, Wallace was focused on football, but won over 10 State titles in track and field. After high school he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and in his first year walked on at the University of Arkansas for Coach McDonnell. Wallace says, “I wanted to wipe (my dad’s) name clean off the record books, and I did it my first year at Arkansas.” As a Razorback in 2004, he won the 200 meter NCAA outdoor title and then, in 2005, won the 200 meter indoor and outdoor. He turned pro after that season.
Wallace’s best event is the 200 meter dash, where he has the fifth-fastest time ever at 19.65 seconds, behind only Usain Bolt’s 19.19, Michael Johnson’s 19.32, Tyson Gay’s 19.58 and Xavier Carter’s 19.63. As a professional sprinter, Wallace has several other feathers in his cap, including an indoor 300 meter world record time of 31.88 in February of 2006, a 100 meter finish where he clocked in at 9.96 in 2007, and multiple victories over his friend, Usain Bolt. Wallace would have won the bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but was disqualified for stepping on the line. He won the bronze at the 2009 World Championships and, in April of 2010, posted a time of 19.98 in the 200 at a race in Jamaica to take second behind Bolt.
When talking to Wallace about track & field, I can hear the appreciation and respect in his voice when he discusses some of the greatest runners in history: Michael Johnson, Maurice Green, Donovan Bailey and the runner he compares himself to, Frankie Fredericks. He also talks about how Usain Bolt has taken the sport to another level. When talking to Wallace about Track & Field, there is no lack of knowledge. He admits he is a student of the sport.
Spearmon’s passion is also evident when it comes to talking about competing at the highest level. He says, “If you’re going to be great, you have to be confident in yourself that every time you step on the track, that you’re better than them.”
Wallace is healthy for the first time in a while and he is confident that his hard work will pay off. “I’m not training to get second, that’s all I’ll say. I’m healthy, so the sky is the limit,” Wallace told me “I’m just getting back to where I was and I’m gonna make the people that support me proud.” Wallace is very close with his family and seems to treat everyone around him with the utmost respect. His outgoing personality and work ethic are undoubtedly part of what has gotten him to this point in his career.
Wallace is working hard, training for the 2012 Olympics in London, and will be ready to shine on the big stage with the best in the world when the time comes. He says he was born with a ton of God-given natural ability and will never use illegal performance enhancers. He has a tattoo that reads “Naturally Gifted Naturally” as a statement to the world that he will always stay true and be clean.
In 2010, Wallace signed a shoe-and-apparel deal with Saucony to run in his own signature spike. He says, “At the time, I was just trying to switch things up in my life and my career and it was a good move to sign with Saucony. It’s beneficial to both sides and I am feeding off of their excitement.”
We caught up with Wallace where he trains in College Station, TX a few months ago for the Eastbay x Saucony cover shoot, then flew to his hometown of Fayetteville, AR to see how he’s living. It was great to see how focused and passionate Wallace is and to see his signature Saucony Showdown track spike in action.