Track Superstar O'Neal Wanliss Races For Medals and Charity

When Holy Innocents’ track and field coach William Railey first saw O’Neal Wanliss in full stride as a freshman, he immediately knew there was something special.

“You could tell he was a gifted runner,” said Railey. “He makes it look effortless. He’s an amazing young man. Bottom line, it’s like you see a world-class violinist [when he runs].”

Wanliss has started a charity to help underprivileged track athletes in his parents’ native country of Jamaica. His charity, SPIKES 4 Tykes, collects spikes from opposing athletes during Holy Innocents’ meets. He later sends them to primary and secondary schools (elementary and middle) in his parents’ parishes.

“I really want to help with the transition [of these athletes] as they go from primary to secondary schools,” Wanliss said.

Throughout his career with the Golden Bears, Wanliss has attained a high level of success as one of the best athletes in school history. He’s a two-time state champion in the 400-meter, and in 2010 he placed fourth at the Junior Olympics at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento, Calif., clocking in at 48.64.

With his exposure about to increase at the collegiate level, he hopes it will be a great opportunity to propel his charity. In February, he signed a scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

SPIKES 4 Tykes has drawn response from the community and fostered a strong spirit throughout student body along with staff members at Holy Innocents’.

“I think this young man is so special. He’s a superior athlete, but he's not wrapped up in himself,” said Peggy Shaw, director of public relations at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. “He wants to go into international relations. This is not a program he wants to do for now, he wants to carry this through at UNC Chapel Hill. It’s amazing to see a kid so good at academics and sports, yet he takes the time to think about kids who don’t have the same opportunities he had.”

While winning appears to come easy on the surface, Wanliss trains vigorously to get his body into championship form for his races. He also works with his teammates to help them with the training and conditioning.

“There’s definitely a fire in his eyes. He’s totally focused when he gets in the race. You just have to enjoy the moment when you have kids with that talent,” said Railey.

Wanliss’ most successful event is the 400, but he also competes in three other races. He recently smashed the school 800-meter record by six seconds, with a time of 1:57.

During this year’s upcoming state championships, he’ll compete in the 200 and 400-meter, the latter of which he first won in his sophomore year after finishing third as a freshman. He hopes to cap off his high school career with crossing the finish line with another gold medal.

“I'll miss the school,” said Wanliss. “In my earlier years I took the support for granted. But these people really support me. It’s a real community; they’re more like a family.”

To learn more about helping SPIKES 4 Tykes, send an e-mail to

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