Prep Cross Country: Danville's Megan Smith cruises to Class A regional title
Meagan Smith of Danville leads Maddox Patterson of Sayre and the rest of the field in the first mile of the girls race Saturday at the Class A, Region 5 cross country championships at Admiral Stadium. Smith won the race by 24 seconds for her first regional championship. (Mike Marsee / November 3, 2012)
At least for now.
The first-year Danville runner scored her biggest victory, outrunning a three-time state champion at Admiral Stadium to win her first regional championship and solidifying her position as a state title contender.
“I wasn’t sure how today would turn out, but I’m really, really happy with the result,” Smith said.
This isn’t the first time Smith has been happy after a race; the junior took up cross country for the first time this year, and success has come quickly. She has already won a number of races, but Danville coach Chris Verhoven said none of them mean as much as her win in the girls race in the Class A, Region 5 championships.
“Any sport, you’re judged by postseason,” Verhoven said. “Nothing really matters until postseason. Regional champion, that’s what counts. Doesn’t matter if you win the E.G. Plummer Invitational, doesn’t matter what you do the rest of the season, people remember the postseason.”
Smith will remember this race because she was able to defeat Maddox Patterson of Sayre, who has won the last three Class A girls championships. Smith finished 24 seconds ahead of Patterson, who wasn’t at her best — she is recovering from mononucleosis — but was good enough to push Smith throughout the race.
“I knew that she was still going to run, so I was really nervous. I wasn’t sure how well I would do compared to her,” Smith said. “She kind of pushed me because she was right on me the whole time, and I just had to keep telling myself, ‘This is it, you’ve got to give it your all and go for it,’ and that’s what I did.”
Smith’s time of 19 minutes, 15 seconds was her best time on the 3.1-mile Admiral Stadium course, and it was just 2 seconds off her career best.
“The last time I ran this course I was about 40 seconds slower than my time today, so that really surprised me,” she said.
The state meet course at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington is typically faster than her home course, and she said she hopes she has a better time in her this Saturday.
“I’m just going to do my best and see how it turns out,” she said.
That’s how Smith has approached her races right from the start. She has worked hard both in practices and races to improve, but she said she is still surprised by her sudden rise to the top of Class A.
“When I first came out for cross country, I thought, ‘I’ll be all right.’ I didn’t expect to be getting first in so many meets. I’m really proud of myself,” she said.
Verhoven said he’s not quite as surprised as he would have been at the start of the season.
“At the beginning of the season ... I didn’t know that much about her personally, but as I’ve gotten to know her, she’s that silent killer. She’s the sweetest girl in the world and she’s got that angelic face, but she’s as competitive as any human I’ve ever met,” he said. “She works harder than anybody I know, and just knowing how driven she is and how she seems every week to learn a lesson about some phase of her race and never once has repeated a mistake
“Maybe she still hasn’t run the perfect race, but she’s getting closer each time. She’s learned every time, and that’s why her times have dropped, and that’s why I think she’s got a real good shot at winning it next week.”
Verhoven said he believes she’ll be in the mix with Patterson and Karly Gawarecki of Louisville Holy Cross at the head of the Class A girls race.
“She’s peaking at the right time, and we’ve got one more week, so hopefully next week we’re going to be celebrating a state championship,” Verhoven said.