Middletown’s Conant Smith runs to a second-place finish in the Division I regional boys cross country race Saturday in Troy. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY GREG BILLING

He won a state title for Middletown. Then he took a long road back to running.

Smith had became the first Middie to win a state cross country championship since Jeff See won the second of his back-to-back titles in 2004 when he crossed the line in 15 minutes, 43.4 seconds at National Trail Raceway in Hebron in early November. It capped an undefeated senior season for Smith, an Arizona State University recruit.

“It was my number one goal for the season,” said Smith. “No matter what happened, I wanted that state title.”

READ MORE: Middies’ Smith wins state cross country championship

Yet, even before state, Smith was feeling pain in his left foot. Middletown head cross country coach, David Fultz, was not told about the pain, but he had his suspicions.

“I remember one day, (he) said ‘Hey, my ankle hurts. Can we take a walk?’,” said Fultz. “We took a walk before states.”

Smith said the pain was the worst it had ever been after the state meet, but he still decided to try racing at the Foot Locker Midwest Regional at the University of Wisconsin on Nov. 24.

His hope was to qualify for Foot Locker Nationals, held in San Diego, and he was up with the leaders through the first mile. It was not long after when the adrenaline wore off and the pain tipped over.

“It just hit me,” said Smith. “I’m just jogging, running backwards basically, everybody’s passing me and I couldn’t do anything about it.”

Smith had to be carried to the athletic tent after the race because he could not put weight on his left foot. Bad weather and a ragged course did Smith no justice, as he would finish his high school cross country career 21st overall in a time of 16 minutes, 46.4 seconds.

He did not know it then, but it would be a last race as a Middie.

Smith underwent surgery a few months later to repair a navicular stress fracture in his foot and was placed in a cast, meaning he would miss his senior track season.

In addition to the foot injury, Smith also dealt with Henoch-Schonlein Purpura (HSP), a disorder that caused a severe rash on his feet and inflammation of blood vessels.

“It’s been six months of nothing,” said Smith, who unable to do any form of training — no swimming, biking or lifting — as he rehabbed.

Smith began running again two weeks ago. It has been a running and walking program so far and he is waiting for an official training plan from the Arizona State coaching staff.

“I’ve been running with orthotics in my shoes and it feels great so far,” said Smith.

Smith has been in communication with ASU coach Cory Leslie regarding his injury and rehab. Leslie is a former teammate of See’s at Ohio State.

“They’re super understanding of it. I talk to him a couple times a week,” said Smith. “He’s just making sure I’m getting healthy before anything else.”

Smith isn’t sure if he will be redshirted or not as a freshman, but both he and Fultz are encouraged that he will get back to full strength.

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