It was a rainy afternoon in mid-October at the SCIAC Multi-Dual Meet and Colin Smith was lined up against some of the best athletes the SCIAC has to offer. As soon as the gun sounded, Smith was off, tearing around the course as mud flew out from beneath his spikes. Smith had a look of determination and focus on his face as he ran. He had made his decision; he would not allow himself to have an ounce of energy left once he crossed the finish line. His determination paid off with a seventh place finish and a spot at the NCAA West Regionals.
Whether in high-pressure races like this or in more relaxed settings, Smith has enjoyed running for as long as he can remember. He started participating in competitive races at age six when his brother, a runner himself, encouraged him to participate in the sport. After he started running, it did not take him long to fall in love.
Smith attended Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, where he competed for both the school’s cross country and track teams. As a senior in high school, Smith won the Sunrise Conference Championship and placed at multiple all-state meets. Despite his heavy athletic involvement, he managed to maintain a 3.85 GPA.
Once he arrived at Occidental, Smith’s commitment to the sport was immediately apparent to his coaches.
“[Smith] is talented, but it’s really his drive that makes him a good runner,” men’s cross country head coach Robert Bartlett said.
Bartlett says that Smith is always fully prepared for practices, and has never needed an extra push to get motivated. As a result, Bartlett attempts to maximize his star runner’s performance mostly through teaching him ideal stretching and nutritional practices.
Smith’s consistent efforts do not go unnoticed by his teammates.
“Colin brings lot of passion to every practice and provides leadership through example,” teammate John Guzman (senior) said. “He won’t just tell others to do something; instead he’ll do it and ask others to follow.”
The internal motivation acknowledged by Smith’s coach and teammates was especially important this year, as he has struggled with lingering injuries to his hip and Achilles tendon since beginning of the season.
“It’s been very difficult to maintain fitness through the pain and be healthy enough for the races,” Smith said.
Despite his injuries, Smith continues to consistently score points for the men’s team. He even posted a personal best time at the Multi-Dual meet on Oct. 17 during his injury recovery period. Yet Smith says he is never satisfied with his times.
“My pace [at the Multi-Dual] was only good for seventh, so I have to keep trying to do better,” Smith said.
Smith is just one of the stars on a balanced cross country squad. The team is packed with young talent, including 12 first-year runners. Despite their inexperience, the group managed a third-place finish at the SCIAC championships this past week. Bartlett estimates that they are among the top 20 cross country teams in all of Division III.
Personally, this year presents an opportunity for redemption for Smith. At last year’s cross country national championships, he caught a stomach flu 24 hours before the race and was not able to participate. With a strong time at the west regionals next Saturday in Salem, Ore., Smith will get another opportunity to run at nationals this year.
When he is not running, Smith devotes much of his time to his physics course work. He hopes that majoring in such a challenging field of study will prepare him for a career that involves problem solving or mathematical reasoning.
“I’ll mostly likely go towards the engineering or applied physics route,” Smith said. “I don’t want to be stuck in a lab for the rest of my life.”
When he can find a spare minute to relax, Smith enjoys spending time with his friends, playing video games and participating in outdoor activities like hiking or camping.
Smith’s collegiate running career is nearing its end, and he will graduate as a member of the All-SCIAC team, a USTFCCCA award winner and a participant at the national championships. According to Bartlett, there is no secret as to how Smith achieved this level of success.
“Colin is willing to sacrifice more than most people are,” Bartlett said. “He really just works harder than almost everyone else.”