While there are nine competitors in the state track and field finals of the 110-meter hurdles in essence, the Div. III finals in that event could have been narrowed down to the middle two lanes, where top qualifier Cole Smith of Smithville and defending champion Trevor Bassitt were set to do battle to the bitter end during the finals on Saturday, June 3 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
Smith had been to state as a sophomore last year, so the experience was not going to overwhelm him, but having the defending state champion next to you can play head games like nothing else can. But Smith was able to put aside all of the pressure and the hoopla of the moment to become the new state champion by clipping Bassitt in a race that was as close as everyone figured it might be.
“This is overwhelming,” Smith said after his charge to victory. “It’s nice to see all of the hard work pay off. I knew the field was going to be tough, and I knew Trevor especially was going to be the big challenge.”
Smith knew for a fact that he was going to have to do something he has never done before in terms of time, and his 14.20 effort was far and away a PR for the junior. Smith came charging out of the blocks, knowing that a big start was the only way he was going to eclipse the defending champion.
“I knew I had to come out big out of the blocks to have a chance because Trevor is such a great closer at the end,” Smith said. “I knew I hit the first hurdle before anyone else, and then I just kept driving hard.”
Smith’s time of 14.20 was just enough to get him past Bassitt’s time of 14.26. He knew Bassitt was breathing down his back the whole way, and once he moved past the finish line, there was a leap and a fist pump as the emotions could finally cut loose.
Smith said he had to put aside everyone else running the race including Bassitt and focus on running his race. He was able to do that, and with a big lean at the end he had captured a dream come true.
“This is something that I think every runner dreams about at the beginning of the year,” Smith said. “You push yourself all season, and I knew I had to work for this. Every day in practice I kept telling myself I had to keep pushing and working hard, and here I am.”
While the elation of a state championship is one Smith will cherish, he had precious little time to celebrate because he also was competing in the 300-meter hurdles.
He added to the joy of the day by cruising to third in 38.37. Bassitt got some retribution, winning in 37.94, but the third-place finish capped a special day for the great Smithies athlete.
Now if everything falls in place next season, his senior year, and he is fortunate enough to find himself back at Columbus, Smith will be the guy whom the announcer will be saying, “And the one to watch in lane four is the defending state champion from Smithville, senior Cole Smith.”
That would be sweet music to Smith’s ears.
“I know that there is a lot that can happen, and I have to keep working to get back here again next year, but that would be a great feeling,” Smith said. “I feel so honored to be here today and to be able to compete against all of these great runners. And to win, that is a dream come true.”