Running is Aidan Smith's life. Academics also are very important.
So, when Smith got to be a part of two Washington state academic championship teams in cross country and one in track and field, it was the best of both worlds.
Smith, a junior at Rogers (Puyallup, Wash.)
, has made a difference as an athlete and a student. He said it was important for his teams to take home the academic state championships.
"Especially for cross country, because we hold ourselves to very rigorous academic standards," Smith said. "We help each other with our homework and whatnot. We hold each other accountable for getting good grades. It was just a great feeling to be able to win that."
Smith was a freshman when the upperclassmen paved the way with the first academic state championship in cross country. The next year, the Rams went back-to-back with an impressive cumulative team GPA of 3.964.
There's always a lot of chatter with the runners prior to the season to ensure each person's grades are virtually flawless.
"After we won it the first time, we wanted to win it again," Smith said. "It's the semester before that it counts for, so we made sure that year that you have to get your grades up and you have to do the work and you have to do good in school," Smith said. "You can't just come out and run; you have to put the work in in the classroom, too."
Once track and field season rolled around in the spring of Smith's sophomore year, Rogers captured another state academic title.
The 16-year-old has had a solid run in the first three seasons as a varsity cross country harrier. Smith, the team's No. 3 runner in each of his first two seasons, jumped up to the top guy last fall. He proved he could be a leader on the course for the younger athletes.
"The nice thing about him is he's a good leader to everybody," said Ken Zentz, Rogers' cross country and track and field coach. "He's kind of (part) of that crew that works out together – the distance crew. We call ourselves ‘nerds,' and we all hang out together. He's a great member of that, and we like to be unique in that way."
The reason Smith is such a strong runner, Zentz said, is because he's smart.
"Distance running is not always just a talent thing; front runners are good runners," Zentz said. "He understands what he has to be on his splits and hitting those splits. He understands how to train. Not every day's a day you've got to run your hardest. Some days you have a rest and recovery day, and some days have to be really hard."
Smith embraced the role of being the team's No. 1 runner this year. Last summer, leading up to the cross country season, he was named a team captain and helped run offseason practices. He logged about 100 miles during the summer months to prepare.
"I put in a lot more work," Smith said. "When I came in as a freshman and sophomore year, I took them very seriously because I had friends that really pushed me. When I knew that the seniors graduated last year, that I got to be No. 1, I took more of a leadership role and had to push the other kids and it helped me push myself, too."Learn more about the MaxPreps US Marines program at www.maxpreps.com/marines
Smith had his best season yet and logged a personal-best time of 16:50. Running in a really strong league, Smith did well at the district meet and qualified for the WIAA Cross Country State Championship in 4A.
It was a big accomplishment for Smith to make it to state as Rogers' lone representative.
"It was amazing," Smith said. "I'd been working the first two years and I saw my other teammates going to state. I'm like, ‘I want to be there,' so worked my butt off to get there. It was a great feeling, a very great feeling."
Smith placed 111th in his class, running a 17:08.8.
"I was very happy, especially because it was my first time and I was getting used to it," Smith said. "I hope to get back next year and do even better."
With the track and field season under way, Smith hasn't been able to get out and run. Unfortunately, Smith was rear-ended while driving and hurt his back. He's been seeing a physical therapist and hopes to compete in his first meet of the year on April 8.
Smith has been a consistent distance runner for Rogers in his first two varsity seasons. He clocked a 4:44 in the 1,600-meter race as a freshman and shed two seconds as a sophomore. In the 3,200, Smith ran a 10:31 as a freshman and 10:18 the following year. Even though those times are solid, it didn't qualify Smith for the postseason league meet.
"We run in a league that's really, really talented," Zentz said. "Distance running is kind of tough for us. That doesn't kill his enthusiasm."
"I'm going to have to cut my time down a lot just to get in – not only compete, but get in," Smith said.
Smith, who was the Rams' nominee for the prestigious Tacoma Athlete of the Year award, is up for the challenge. His goal this year is to trim his times to 4:35 in the mile and sub-10 in the two-mile, and make a push to compete in the league meet.
Competing in a difficult league with strong distance runners presents big challenges, but it also pushes Smith to run his best every meet.
"I'm a very competitive person, so even though place might not matter as much, I love getting high places," Smith said. "I love medaling and whatnot, and my times reflect that. When I go out and run against better people, I run faster."
Smith isn't just a runner, he has also competed in basketball all three years in high school. He was on the junior varsity team this past season and is looking to play varsity as a senior.
Along with athletics, Smith is a dedicated student; never more apparent than helping win the academic state championships.
Smith holds a 3.94 GPA and is enrolled in two advanced placement courses. He is in his second year in the National Honor Society and takes part in volunteer activities through the club, such as cleaning up the school campus and parking lots.
The junior was elected a Rambassador by the Rogers faculty and volunteers at school events, handing out programs or welcoming those attending sporting events, art shows, or band and choir concerts.
Smith visits Firgrove Elementary's after school program through Hope Club, where he mentors kindergartners through sixth-graders and also helps students with their homework. During the summer, he logged about 20 hours of community service helping out the young students.
"I really like going out and doing it, especially because you get to bond with the kids," Smith said.
Another volunteer activity close to Smith's heart is the annual Run for Miles. He fundraises and runs in the event, which raises money for a friend's older sister who was paralyzed a few years ago in a gymnastics accident.
Smith's schedule is usually full with athletics and academics, but when he's not competing in a school sporting event or club, he enjoys getting out in the community.
"I like doing it and I like knowing I can help out," Smith said. "I definitely need to work it around my schedule, because I'm busy basically all the time."
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