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State Track Thurs 41

Garner-Hayfield-Ventura's Reece Smith, center, runs the 3,200-meter run during the Iowa High School Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.

Nine minutes and thirty-one seconds never seemed so fast. 

Mid-race, you might think you have the time to grab an interview, type up some notes, or even go to the restroom, but not when Garner-Hayfield-Ventura junior Reece Smith is running.

From the press box, a reporter sees Smith heading around the final curve, passing two runners. As Smith glides down the straight, the spectators are asking questions about the guy right behind him. 

"I think he might catch him," one reporter says.

"I don't think so, he's got it," another replies.

They stand up to see the finish, Smith solidifies the eighth-placing he had established when he passed the two runners on the final curve. 

Now it was time for the sprint down to the track to find him. 

It's normally not as hard to find a runner after a distance race, they tend to linger, hands on knees ready to puke, or lying on the ground in exasperation. 

Some of them are OK, a coach or parent hands them a water cup, or if prepared, a jug-like water cooler they can gulp water from a white spout. 

But Smith has already traveled down to the opposite end of the field, sitting while he catches his breath and changes out of his racing shoes just behind Emporia State's track team warming up for its upcoming races. 

"Everybody goes out really fast, the elite guys," Smith said. "You’ve just got to focus on that last half of the race, and even that last lap, I think I caught two or three guys in that last 400. That was good for me, helped get my legs to move out a little bit more."

"Normally where I race it’s not very competitive for me to try to run really fast times like today. It’s good to have these competitors who are great at setting pace."

Smith came in as the 21st seed in the 3,200, having only run the race once to qualify this season. He'd put most of his effort in qualifying for the 1,600, but he missed the mark by a small margin.

"I tried to qualify in the mile, but I got bumped down by two-tenths of a second," Smith said. "We had a foot of snow on the track, my coach and a teammate of mine went down to Southeast Polk and they had a meet and that was the first time I ran the two-mile."

Smith qualified with a time of 9:46.35, he ran a 9:31.31 that day at the Drake Relays. He was one second away from his personal best.

It's not really the feel and awe of the Drake Relays that drove Smith to make it down here. Although, he wasn't prepared to run into USA competitor and world-championship 800 meter medalist, Brenda Martinez, in the parking lot. 

"That was crazy." He said. 

But it was the competition he really wanted. As a junior, Smith had always wanted to make it down here to see what kind of times he could run. Today, the competition was even steeper given his lagging preparation from the winter weather.

He refused to use that as an excuse, trying to run in the icy conditions knowing that the runners down south were already practicing.

"It’s tough, there’ll be days where there are guys in Des Moines that have a track meet and last week we had school cancelled in a snow storm," Smith said. "You don’t get that added quality of training indoors versus a boy down here can get out to a track outside." 

So Smith would try running outside in March, but eventually stopped because he found it was doing more harm than good. 

"I had a knee injury this winter because I was running on ice and was kind of throwing off my mechanics," Smith said. "I had some muscles that had to fire too much because my mechanics were off and it just caused a little bit of swelling and discomfort and it’s not good to run on that."

Smith was out for two weeks, losing fitness, but trying to keep what he could swimming indoors. 

Now that he's at 100 percent, Smith has set high goals for the rest of the season. 

"I want to win state in the 3,200, I’m hoping to break the Class 2A state record, it’s 9:16," Smith said. "I want to win the mile and we’ve got a d-med team that we can get a place out of, I mean, we’re pretty competitive so, hopefully top eight." 

Smith got second his freshman and sophomore years in the 3,200 at state, so this year, he hopes for the crown. While the Drake Relays experience was great, Smith plays it off like it could've been better.

"I only qualified for the one day," Smith said. "State it's like a two-day deal." 

He hopes with the tracks cleared and the sun shining, he can get more time working on track speed, more time to pass other runners on the final stretch and take first at state.

"Once you get second once, it’s plenty," Smith said. "My leg speed is coming along, but once I get that out of myself it will fall into place." 

​Reach sports reporter Leah Vann at 641-421-0526.

Follow her on twitter at @GG_LeahVann

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