This week’s guest was poised to have a breakout senior season on the McKinney North track and field team before his spring was effectively ended before it started.
Please welcome senior Nic Palutis, who recently sat down for a Sunday Spotlight conversation.
What made you want to become a high jumper?
Palutis: During my sophomore year of football, we were in the offseason and conditioning in our indoor field, about halfway through conditioning, our coach, coach (Melvin) Crosby, asked who wanted to do high jump, and if you do, go over and see the high jump coach.
So, at that point, I was stuck with two options: Keep running with the football team or go high jump.
I’ve never been a fan of running so, of course, I chose high jump. That turned out to be one of my best decisions I’ve ever made.
Who was your role model on and off the track, and how has their guidance helped you get to this point in your career?
Palutis: My role model ever since I was a kid, even to today, has always been my older brothers, Austin and Christian. Growing up, they had always been the athletes of the family and they’ve always been the ones with countless medals and trophies in their rooms, and so that’s really always been what I’ve wanted.
I played on the same football team as my brother, Austin, and there was even times where he would end the game with the game-winning interception, and that same game, I didn’t get off the sideline. So, I really grew up aspiring to be more like them.
If you ask anybody in our family, growing up, nobody would have guessed I was going to be the one going to college for athletics, and now track is my entire life.
Describe your relationship with North head boys track coach Melvin Crosby and the impact he’s made on you.
Palutis: I don’t even know where to begin. I’m sure if you ask coach Crosby, he will remember my freshman year, needing to sit out at our high school football camp because I got too hot and tired. Coach Crosby transitioned me from being the kid that sits out halfway through practice, to being the one to picking up the ones sitting down.
Coach has impacted me in the most outrageous way athletically, but even more personally. Athletically, he turned me into an extra on the team, to someone that if you went and watched at MNHS track practice, the odds of you watching me were pretty high.
Personally, coach Crosby is certainly one to hold you accountable. If you miss a practice, you will go to regret it, but even if you do things like sit down halfway through practice, he will jump on you. Not because he’s strict, not because he’s “mean,” because he wants us to grow by not just doing the big things in life correctly, he wants us to do the small things in life that not many people notice, with perfection.
How disappointing is it to not have the opportunity to compete and go to Austin in your senior season?
Palutis: It’s pretty hard to put in all of the work that I did during the off season and all of the preparation during the indoor season for our season to be abruptly cut so short, ultimately taking away everyone’s primary goal of traveling to [the University of Texas] for the UIL state meet and Texas Relays.
All of the recruits that are committed to Sam Houston State University with me all talk a lot, we all had plans on putting on a good show and representing SHSU before we even got there.
What led you to signing on to take our talents down to Huntsville to compete at Sam Houston State next season?
Palutis: Throughout my recruitment process, I always had bigger and better goals for myself as soon as I achieved the ones I already had. I started out saying to myself as long as I get an offer, I will be beyond happy.
That then turned into, I just want to go [Division I], no matter the school. Then that turned into, I want to go to a big Division I school that is ranked nicely in the NCAA.
I went on my visit to Sam Houston with multiple Division I offers from some great schools, though. I wanted to go to a school that was more family oriented, that hangs out outside of track, and I definitely didn’t want to go to college to just compete for myself.
I wanted a family to compete for, and a family that I know would compete for me.
How has being a student-athlete at North prepared you to shine in college academically and athletically?
Palutis: Being a student-athlete at North has prepared me for college academically because coach Crosby made it an absolute standard to go through high school with good grades first, then after you do that you can worry about athletics.
The track team at North is the best team I could have asked for. Like I’ve always been told, “If you want to be great, surround yourself with greatness.” The North track team is about as great as it gets, there’s plenty of room for people to shine as leaders, as well as there being plenty of room for people to grow into leadership roles.
Being a student-athlete at North has taught me plenty of life lessons and skills that I’m sure I will be using for the majority of my life, and I couldn’t ask for a better team.
I look forward to coming home and seeing the team as I progress through my collegiate career, thanking and giving praise to coach Crosby, coach Wilson, coach Patterson, coach Richards, and coach Robinson. They definitely taught me to be dedicated, stay focused and push hard to achieve my goals.