West Hancock junior Josef Smith doesn’t look like a kid who used to get pushed around. Smith stands 6 feet, 4 inches, and has the muscular build of a top athlete. On Thursday, Smith won a long-jumping state championship. On Friday, he ran in three more events, and qualified for another state final, in the 110 meter hurdles.
What motivates Smith is simple. Little brother syndrome.
“I have seven siblings, including myself,” Smith said. “I’ve got two older brothers, and two older sisters. I was always the one getting pushed around, but by the time I got to play sports, I was a lot better than everyone else. It was a competition.”
Two of Smith's brothers competed in track and field. He mentioned two of his brothers, McCoy and Sam, and spoke of how badly he wanted to best both of their scores.
"I like coming here, and saying I was better than them," Smith said. "It's about trying to one-up my siblings."
Smith, has succeeded in that regard. After winning his long jump title on Thursday, Smith finished first in his heat in the 110 meter hurdle prelims, seventh overall, with a time 15.36, good for a trip to Saturday’s finals.
Smith wasn’t quite as successful in the 400 meter hurdles, which he admitted is his least favorite event. Smith ran a 57.95, 16th overall.
“Right before it, I’m always like, ‘I don’t want to do these’”, Smith said. “When I get done with them, it wasn’t terrible. And it’s over. It’s probably my least favorite event. It’s not like I hate it or anything.”
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Being the picked-on little sibling isn’t the only key to Smith’s success. Coming from a small, 1A school like West Hancock presents a challenge of its own, but Smith makes sure that nobody on the track, the football field, or the basketball court outworks him.
“I listen to my body,” Smith said “I do the research. We’re a small school and all that. We don’t have the resources and stuff like that, but I don’t make any excuses. If I have a box, I’ll use that to jump on, ….I stay really consistent with it.”
Smith is a common sight at Eagle Lake State Park in Britt, where he runs up the park’s steep hill. It’s well-known as a runner’s hill, where West Hancock athletes have trained throughout the years. Smith is often there, training for whatever sport is in season.
“I’ve run up that thing hundreds of times,” Smith said “In football season, I’ll time it. I get a 25-second break, and then I’ve got to do it again. In track, I’ll give myself all the time I need. I’m really consistent with what I do, and I have fun with it. I enjoy it, and I make sure that I pay attention to detail. I’m not out there just doing stuff. I’m doing a lot of stuff, but I’m doing it really good.”
Smith credits a lot of this season’s success to the Eagle’s fun and supportive team atmosphere.
“It’s really a team effort. Anytime somebody PR’s, no matter how good you are, you get to ring the bell. I think that’s great stuff,... In practice, I have good teammates. Gavin (Becker) is always faster than me. I love it. I don’t like when people are faster than me, but I love to have it on my team. Have someone to push me all the time.”
Smith’s final event on Friday night was the 4x100 meter relay, which the Eagles’ finished in 45.17, 17th overall. Smith is hopeful that he can perform well in Saturday’s 110 meter finals, but he doesn’t let a performance, or a number, let him get too high or too low.
“The goal is for me to improve, improve mentally, improve physically," Smith said. "Keep my weight down, make sure I’m fast. I’m not really out here thinking about places all the time. I’m out here by myself, doing the best that I can do.”