The power of fate can be a funny thing sometimes. Ask former Fighting Scots standout athlete Trey McRae about his brush with fate, and he’d tell you the same thing.
Growing up, all McRae wanted to do was utilize his natural leaping ability and athleticism to become an elite basketball player. And as a senior swingman at Scotland High School, McRae found himself the subject of many a highlight reel, as his rim-rattling dunks would become a regular occurrence at games.
While McRae was jumping out of the gym on a nightly basis, someone had a bird’s eye view of his highlights. That was former Scotland track and field coach Robbie Goins, who immediately saw the potential in McRae as a track athlete when the spring 2011 season began. It didn’t take much convincing to get McRae to try track and field for the first time in his life.
The result? Within weeks of trying out, McRae earned the best High Jump distance (6.8 feet) in the state, and would later win team MVP and Scotland High School’s ‘best track and field athlete’ award. His short track career was good enough to earn a scholarship to UNC-Charlotte: But in terms of what fate had in store for him, McRae was only getting started.
“It’s unbelievable to see how fate can line everything up for you,” McRae said. “I’m just blessed by God and want to enjoy wherever my track career takes me.”
By the time this issue of the Laurinburg Exchange hits newstands, McRae will have touched down in Barcelona, Spain to compete against 150 other countries in the World Junior Track and Field Championships as a High Jump participant. McRae qualified for the event by first meeting the international eligibility requirements (completing a 7-.075 foot jump), then by placing third in the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships by clearing 6-8.25 feet. The latter event took place June 17th in Bloomington, Indiana.
The accomplishments of McRae are astonishing, considering he has only been actively competing as a track athlete for 14 months. And McRae’s road to the world stage began with a mere phone call just over a year ago.
“I was in weight lifting class one day as a senior when coach (Norman) Quick told me I had the chance to earn a scholarship in track and field,” McRae said. “It took a couple phone calls to get a hold of the UNC-Charlotte track and field coach, but once we did, all it took was five minutes on the phone before I was invited out to their campus.”
The UNC-Charlottte track and field coach for the past 13 seasons has been Robert Olesen, who upon returning coach Quick’s call knew he had access to an athlete with a wealth of talent.
“Coach Quick’s phone call was like a big-time stock market tip,” Olesen said. “After speaking with Norman, you could tell this kid was not only off the radar but could make a huge impact in just a short amount of time, like he did at Scotland.”
Olesen invited McRae out for a two-day visit to the UNC-Charlotte campus, and signed with the university shortly thereafter. And if McRae’s story ended there, it would’ve been a fairytale ending for the former Scot.
Yet, a few injury setbacks nearly derailed his 49ers career before it even had a chance to begin when he set foot on campus for the fall semester. An MRI on McRae’s knee revealed slight damage to his meniscus, which required surgery that would see McRae go through an intense rehabilitation process until Christmas of that year. And when he returned in January 2012, McRae would participate in just two indoor track meets before spraining his ankle which sidelined him for an additional five weeks.
But as he’s grown accustomed to doing in the past year, McRae didn’t take long following his return to the track and field team to make his mark.
“His first season here would’ve been amazing just based on what he managed to do at this school alone,” Olesen said. “But it’s even more remarkable when you see how Trey has bounced back from every hurdle he’s faced. He’s a very resilient kid who is just so naturally gifted that he can come back from injuries and be almost instantly competitive again.”
Now, as McRae plans to absorb all the sights and sounds of Spain, he also stands on the cusp of greatness in a sport that was foreign to him just over a year ago. And to think, it all started with his dreams of being a basketball player.
“All I ever really wanted to do was basketball, but God chose another route for me,” McRae said. “I’m excited to see what else He has in store for me.”