VIDEO: Space Coast Sports Hall of Famer Rebecca Sparks Among Florida’s Most Prolific Runners
By SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME // June 12, 2014
SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME
ABOVE VIDEO: Rebecca Sparks was the first woman inducted into the Space Coast Runners Hall of Fame, after breaking 27 Florida road race course records and being named Florida Space Coast Runner of the Year six times.
REBECCA SPARKS – 2014 INDUCTEE
• Three-Time All-American
• Six-Time Runner of the Year
• USAF National Champion
RECORDS STILL STAND TODAY
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – When Rebecca Sparks was ten years old, her older brother dared her to run to her aunt’s house. It was a dare that would shape Sparks’ future.
“He called me a baby and said I couldn’t make it to my aunt’s house, even though it wasn’t really that far away,” said Sparks. “That was my very first long run.”
Sparks hasn’t stopped running since that day 37 years ago.
To her surprise, the Kansas City native discovered that she liked running, and, moreover, she was very good at it.
Even though her junior high at the time didn’t have any organized track team, Sparks did so well in the school’s annual field day that the high school coach invited her to join the high school junior varsity.
“I was one of their best runners.”
She went on to win the Kansas State High School Championships from 1982 to 1985. Her records in the 880m, 1,600m, 3,200m and 4x800m still stand today.
At Johnson County Community College in Kansas, Sparks was a three-time All-American. At Bethany College, also in Kansas, she was All-Regional and All-Conference three times.
The beachside resident began running in Brevard almost immediately after being stationed at Patrick Air Force Base Christmas Day of 1989.
“I picked up the newspaper and saw there was a New Year’s Eve run in Melbourne Beach,” she said.
“It was the first year I wasn’t popping champagne on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t know a soul here and I didn’t have any transportation, but I picked up the phone and called the number in the paper. Local runners Harold Tucker, Pat Dixon and Angela Saldana agreed to pick me up on A1A. That was my introduction to the wonderful Brevard running community. I went on to run on that New Year’s Eve race and to win it.”
AIR FORCE CHAMPION
Sparks was to be the first woman inducted into the Space Coast Runners Hall of Fame, after breaking 27 Florida road race course records and being named Florida Space Coast Runner of the Year six times.
From 1994 to 2005, Sparks directed or co-directed the Downtown Melbourne 5K, a run to benefit The Haven, a home for neglected or abused children.
She founded and directed the Space Coast Art Festival Turkey Trot 5k and Brevard’s first summer race series, which aided the National Kidney Foundation.
Sparks served as assistant cross country coach at Our Saviour Catholic School in Cocoa Beach.
The Air Force, which named Sparks Female Athlete of the Year in 1992 at Patrick Air Force Base, depended on her speed during competitions around the world.
“I competed for the Air Force on their international circuit,” said Sparks.
She would go on to become World-Wide Air Force National Champion and six-time medalist.
Off the track and the race course, Sparks also performed extremely well. In 2000, she opened Up & Running on the East Coast, Brevard’s first running specialty store.
She founded Peak When it Counts Camp for adult runners, coaching and graduating more than 100 runners annually from 1998 to 2011. She is now the owner of Apollo Realty in Cocoa Beach.
Even with a successful real estate career, two young children and a tricky knee, Sparks still competes in one race a month and makes it a point to run 15 miles a week, often with her eight-year-old daughter by her side. Her three-year-old son can’t keep up with Mom just yet, but that will soon change.
“The great thing about running is that you can leave the sport, raise your children and come back,” said Sparks. “It’s a sport for everyone.”
FOR INFORMATION about the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame call 321-615-8111 or e-mail MaverickMultimedia@gmail.com