Smith puts retirement on hold after qualifying for U.S. team

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Terrell Smith thought he had his future all mapped out.

The Vicksburg native had made peace with the end of a decorated track and field career at Kansas State. He was shifting his focus to academics, an internship with KSU’s athletic department in the fall, and getting his degree in human development in December.

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Then he went and screwed it all up in the best way possible.

Smith finished second in the 200 meters at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships on June 24. Suddenly, his carefully laid plans were thrown upside down. Smith will now represent the United States at the NACAC Championships Aug. 10-12 in Toronto, Canada, and is reconsidering his retirement from the sport.

“Basically, I had everything prepared. I had wanted to come back to Vicksburg this summer and maybe explore the country. That threw a big wrench in it, especially since this meet is a week before school starts,” Smith said.

Whatever regrets Smith has about missing out on a summer of fun, however, seem to pale in comparison to achieving a goal he had given up on.

The former Vicksburg High star was a four-time All-American at Kansas State — he competed in the NCAA Outdoor Championships three times and the Indoor Championships once — and set the school record in the 200 meters as a freshman.

For all his success and speed, however, Smith never could break through into the tier of very elite, world-class runners that populate the top of the NCAA ranks. His best national finishes in the 200 meters were both this year, in ninth place at the Indoor Championships and 16th at the Outdoors.

Smith was good enough to earn an invitation to the USA Track and Field Championships, but treated it more as a victory lap than a serious competition.

“I went to the meet expecting to be done with track. I had no goals. I was just planning to enjoy my last meet,” Smith said. “Even for the prelims I ran pretty slow. I had no confidence going to the second round. Then I went out and did my best and broke the school record in the semifinals.”

Suddenly, Smith’s last lap turned serious. His semifinal time of 20.44 seconds was a personal best and put him as the third seed for the final. A rain delay and a thunderstorm gave him another lift, he said, bringing a headwind that slowed other runners and played to his strengths.

Ameer Webb, a 2016 Olympian, easily won the national championship with a time of 20.47 seconds in the final as the rest of the field struggled in its second heat of the day. Smith’s time was slow by his standards — 20.74 seconds — but at the head of a pack of five runners who all finished within .08 seconds of each other.

Smith took home the silver medal and a chance to run again. The NACAC Championships are a continental meet for North American, Central American and Caribbean countries.

“When I finished I looked up at the scoreboard to see the results. To see it come across, it was the biggest thing I could accomplish in my senior year,” Smith said.

Smith’s immediate future will include his trip to Canada next month and his final semester at Kansas State. Beyond that, however, is now in doubt. If he can do well at the NACAC meet, he might get some offers to run professionally and said he would consider it.

“It depends on what people offer me. Going pro in track is difficult with the amount of talent that’s out there now,” he said. “If I go to Toronto and do well I might stick with it. But I’m very adaptable. These have always been my problems. I have too many opportunities.”

Whatever the future holds, and even if next month’s meet truly is his last, Smith said he’s satisfied with the way his track career has turned out. He still holds the Mississippi High School Activities Association overall record in the 200 meters, and was consistently one of the top 25 sprinters in the country throughout his college career. He set school records, won championships, and held his own against the best of the best.

He thanked his coaches, particularly his AAU coach Clarence Maxey, for helping him achieve all of it, and was confident he’ll always have a spot in the history of the places he ran.

“I’m pretty satisfied, except for not getting as many All-Americas as I wanted. I wanted to be acknowledged as one of the best of my current time in college, and I ran against everybody that’s considered fast in my current time,” Smith said. “At the USAs I was one of the people with the least amount of accolades. In terms of people who knew me, I was a nobody. People will remember me at Kansas State and in Vicksburg. I feel like my name will stay in the history books regardless of who comes after me.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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