DES MOINES | The story of Garner-Hayfield-Ventura senior Reece Smith has been riddled with close calls.
In each of his first three years, Smith finished in the top three at state in the 3200 meter run, but had never walked away as a champion.
On Thursday at Drake Stadium, Smith finally got his long-sought medal, winning the 2A title with a state-record time of 9:11.33.
“It feels great. It hasn’t set in," Smith said. "This is something I’ve been chasing for four years. I’ve run several thousand miles, woken up every day wanting to be a state champion, and break a state record. For the past three years, that’s what I’ve wanted to do.”
Just a few weeks ago, at the Drake Relays, Smith finished with a time of 9:15, finishing in second place by just one second. That time broke his personal record (PR) by 15 seconds, already a school record.
Now, he can add a state record to his trophy case.
“Right before the race, I thought, ‘I’ve worked harder than anyone on this track and I want it way more than anyone else,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, I knew there was no way anybody was going to take that away from me today.”
After he crossed the finish line, Smith walked over to the stands and hugged his friends and family. They smiled and cheered and told him how proud they were, after watching him work so hard and finally achieving his goal.
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Smith knew that this was the moment he wanted, but he didn’t always believe it would come.
“It’s really emotional,” Smith said. “ I got second my freshman, sophomore and junior year. Nobody comes down here to get second. It’s been really tough, and I kind of lost faith in myself. I got that back. I learned to never stop believing in yourself.”
With summer in central Iowa rapidly approaching, the temperatures at Drake were in the mid-80s, and even hotter down on the track. In long distance races like the 3200, heat can become an issue, but Smith wasn’t going to let it keep him from the title he had wanted for so long. Smith pushed through and ran the final 800 meters in 2:09.
“I noticed (the heat) a little bit,” Smith said. “ I got cotton-mouth and its gets a little hard to breath. But if I’m feeling it, they’re definitely feeling it. I like to keep that in the back of my mind, that I’m the toughest one out there.”
Smith pulled out front almost right away and never let up. After setting and breaking his own school record PR, and seeing his efforts come up just short on several occasions, Smith knew that this was his time.
“I have the fastest PR of any of these guys," Smith said. "Anybody can hang around for six laps, but it’s all about laps seven and eight. That was where I was focusing. I wanted to go through (halfway) at 4:40 and be about that 9:20 pace. I knew if I had a 9:20 pace with 800 to go, there was no way I wasn’t going to break that record of 9:17.”
It was a great way for Smith to kick off the state weekend, but he is definitely not finished. Smith will also compete in the 1600 meter run on Saturday afternoon, where he is the seeded, as well as the 2A Distance Medley Relay, where the Cardinals are seeded second. Not content with just one title, Smith wants it all.
“I'm hoping to go three for three,” Smith said. “That would be pretty remarkable.”