Smiles and kicks for Kim Smith | VailDaily.com
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Smiles and kicks for Kim Smith

Ryan Slabaugh

Every year, one local high-school athlete seems to steal the headlines, week after week, with one glorious accomplishment after another. State championships. School records. The athlete usually has been on the fringe of success for some time and, during his or her senior year, puts it all together for one final run toward graduation.

This year, while the valley has enjoyed the emergence of several stars, Eagle Valley senior Kim Smith reminded everyone that her stretch run began three years ago, as a sophomore, when she won her first of three-straight, state-track championships in the 800. Last Saturday, Smith ran her last high-school meet, winning the 800 again, an event where she holds the 3A state record.

Like any talented athlete, Smith sticks to her own style.

“My secret is,” she said, “you run a steady pace. You run a 500, and begin the kick with 300 to go. You steadily work up to the finish.”

Anybody who has seen her run knows she speaks the truth. The daughter of Eric and Brandi Smith came from behind to win every one of her championships. This year, she was in third place until that last kick, when she passed everyone and ended up a second ahead of the field.

The day before in qualifying, her medley team gave her the baton in last place and, one lap later, Smith crossed the finish line in second in the heat. Katie Wick, her teammate, asked her after the race, “Do you know what you just did?”

“I didn’t want to lose,” Smith said. “I wanted to qualify for the finals. I like to come from behind. If I just want to win, I’ll hang out in second- or third-place position. Then, I’ll try to work my way to the front.”

When Smith was a freshman, she was eager to follow in the footsteps of her sister, Kelly, who runs track for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and starred at Eagle Valley. Kim qualified for the state meet and took runner-up in the 800. Bells went off. A star was in the making.

Then, Smith came back to Earth. Thirty minutes later, when she was on the track to run the 3,200, she became tired and finished 12th.

“I realized I hated the two mile,” she joked. “My coach said he would never make me run it again.”

Her coach, Jeff Shroll, made a wise decision. Smith concentrated on the mid-distance events and, during her sophomore year, won the 800 and took seventh in the mile at state.

“It was a lot of pressure,” Smith said. “When I was a freshman, I got second. I knew there were new kids coming in all the time. I didn’t know if I would keep it.”

Her junior year would feature more success. One more championship in the 800 complemented a second in the mile, a sixth in the 400 and a fourth in the medley with her team.

Then, this season, Smith dominated again, picking up a second in the mile, another 800 gold medal and a seventh-place finish in the medley. On May 31, she will graduate with the Class of 2003, ending a career that also featured state appearances in volleyball her junior and senior years (on top of trying Nordic skiing her senior year, after three years of basketball).

And Smith, in a way, is choosing the road less traveled. The lifetime Eagle resident will head to Colorado Northwest Community College in Rangely to run cross country, not track, because, as she said, she needed something different.

“Running’s a hard sport,” she said. “I usually win on the kick, but in cross country, it’s not as important. You have to be more calm, in a way.”

Her coach, at the state track meet in Pueblo, said she’d do fine in whatever happens next. “She’s a born leader,” he said. “I’ve probably never met a tougher athlete.”

As scary as it sounds, this fall, the Smith sisters will be racing, head to head, in Colorado Springs. Their parents will be making the road trip, Kim said.

“They’ve been really supportive,” Smith said. “They’ve always been there for me. They’ve never missed a meet.”

And, when she’s not training, Smith will be in the classroom, studying dentistry. After four years of success in high school and summers working as a lifeguard at the Eagle pool, her reason for dentistry speaks volumes about her personality.

“I’ve always been intrigued with teeth and smiles,” she said, smiling.

And, anybody who knows anything about Kim knows that.

Ryan Slabaugh can be contacted at (970) 949-0555 ext. 608 or at rslabaugh@vaildaily.com.


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