Watching her athletes compete and perform well throughout the OHSAA state track and field meet June 2-3 in Columbus was a thrill for Smithville coach Kirstie Mahas. However, the crowning achievement was having her boys team stand atop the podium when all of the racing and field events were officially over, basking in the glow of the team’s runner-up finish in Div. III.
“They called us down to the podium after everything was done, and that is always a good thing,” Mahas said as her team enjoyed the thrill of being honored as the 2017 Div. III state runner-up.
East Canton racked up 49 points while Smithville amassed 37 points, getting by third-place Paint Valley, which collected 26 points.
Buoyed by the state championship in the 110-meter hurdles by Cole Smith; individual All-Ohio efforts by senior Joey Coudriet and juniors Justin McKeal, Lucas Clark and Smith in the 300-meter hurdles; and an All-Ohio effort by the 4×800 relay team, the Smithies had themselves a very good time in Columbus, one that ended with a celebration few teams get to experience.
In a sport that has so many individual performers competing, many people view it as an individual sport, but the Smithies have made little attempt to hide the fact that they firmly believe it is one for all and all for one.
“We have preached team from day one,” Mahas said. “These guys absolutely have bought into that concept. Track and field is a very individualized sport in many ways, but it is really fun when you compete as a team and pour yourself into supporting your teammates as much as you do performing on your own.”
Mahas said the Smithies have been incredibly supportive of one another all season long as they pulled together toward one common goal. That goal came to fruition when the team took second place behind a hugely gifted East Canton team.
“All of the hard work, all of the fun stuff we did, it makes every bit of it worthwhile to see these guys get to celebrate here in Columbus,” Mahas said.
The head coach said the team entered this year with some huge expectations and high hopes. She went on to note that the season was a long one, and injuries and varying degrees of athletes stepping up and performing will always cast a shadow on high expectations. However, she said the team always had in the back of its collective mind that it was fully capable of achieving exactly what it did on the state’s biggest stage.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled for these guys,” Mahas said. “You can see how happy they are, and they should be. That is a great accomplishment.”
Just how great of an accomplishment? No Smithville team has crawled up on the podium since 1962 when Smithville earned a share of a runner-up trophy.
Coudriet, one of only a few seniors on the Smithville track team, said having this kind of experience and enjoying the fruits of their labor on the big stage of the state meet was an incredible way to end his career.
“I am so proud of the guys. They are amazing,” Coudriet said. “We have pushed ourselves so hard to get here. We have been together for a long time, and when this group of juniors came in as freshman, I don’t think we thought that one day we would be standing here.”
But they were, and the Smithies got there through a great deal of hard work and a core belief that performing as a team in a sport known for individual performances was something worth pursuing.