Greenwood Community High School senior Hunter Smith has attended the past two IHSAA Boys State Cross-Country finals.
As a spectator, not as a runner.
Smith doesn’t want to watch next time. He wants to compete.
To do so, there is work to be done between now and Oct. 31. That mission starts at the Franklin Sectional, where a year ago Smith posted a time of 16 minutes, 55.89 seconds to finish fifth individually.
Smith, whose first-place time from the 2014 Mid-State Conference Meet (16:17.33) still stands as his personal best, said his training differs this time of year as opposed to earlier in the cross-country season.
“Usually you put on more miles and take off some speed workouts. Kind of taper, I guess,” Smith said. “It rests your legs more so that you can be fresh for the race.”
Smith also knows the sectional course well, which can only serve as an advantage.
“Franklin is a fairly flat course, and there’s always good competition there, so that helps with the times,” Smith said. “We have a lot of races there, so I know when I need to start my kicks and speed up in the middle of races.
“I’m going to try to get in the 15s for my time and would also like to win. My main goal for the rest of this season is to make it to state.”
As a junior, Smith finished fourth at the South Dearborn Regional in 16:28.6. He narrowly missed out on advancing to state the following week at the Carmel Semistate after placing 26th in a time of 16:30.2.
Greenwood cross-country coach Blaine Williams is confident Smith, now an older and wiser runner, has what it takes to persevere through the physical and mental challenges of the postseason.
“I think he’s definitely got a shot to make it to the state finals and make his mark. Looking at the results from last year, he was pretty close,” Williams said. “He’s been our No. 1 runner for a couple of years, so he understands the weight that comes with that.
“You add being a senior on top of it, and he’s really taken a leadership role by his performance and by his work ethic.”
Smith’s running strategy is to hang back early and gradually accelerate his pace in order to move past opposing runners.
“Some kids don’t have enough left in the tank to speed up in the middle of a race like that. Others can only kick maybe those last 400 meters. Every kid is different,” Williams said. “We just try to train them the same, and hopefully they make the right choices on race day.”
THE SMITH FILE
Name: Hunter Smith
Family: Parents, Nathan and Pamela; sister, Autumn, 16; brother, Kaylor, 14
Favorite TV show: “SportsCenter”
Favorite food: Cucumbers
Favorite movie: “Hoosiers”
Favorite athlete: Robin van Persie
Favorite team: Purdue University athletics