Smith, whose older brother Cole is headed to the University of Cincinnati as a kicker for football, only began running the summer before eighth grade to condition for soccer, but it didn’t take long for him to develop a passion for it or to realize he had some natural ability. He won his first middle school cross country race and ended up quitting soccer to focus on running.
Three races into his freshman season last year, Smith clocked a time of 15 minutes, 43 seconds at the Miamisburg Invitational to break See’s best freshman time of 15:46. Unfortunately, a severe stress fracture ended his season before he could run another race.
“That put me down a lot, but I just put that behind me and trained all winter and came out for track,” Smith said.
Smith finished fourth in the mile at the GMC track championships last spring and placed second at districts. This summer, he ran about 40 miles a week to prepare for what he hoped would be a more full-filling cross country season.
So far, Smith has placed in the top three at all four meets he’s raced in this season. He won the Bob Schul Invitational with a time of 15:59.50 on Aug. 27, then won the Miamisburg Invitational with a personal-record 15:38.90 on Sept. 3 before taking third and second the next two races.
“He has a God-gifted talent,” Middies coach David Fultz said. “It makes me sick when people have that and don’t want to work, but he has it and works his tail off. He does a lot on his own and he doesn’t hesitate. His work ethic is unbelievable.”
Smith, who has grown six inches since eighth grade, hopes to run a 15:20 by the end of the season and win a state championship by senior year.
Fultz looks forward to seeing how Smith progresses over the next couple of years and wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up on a similar path to See.
“Jeff was physically mature as a 15-year-old freshman, but Conant is just starting to grow,” Fultz said. “He hasn’t fully matured yet, but I expect him to get better and better and stronger and stronger. The sky is the limit for him.
“For me, it’s a blessing. Runners like that don’t come around too often.”