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THE GRIND: Lambert's Jordan Smith has found her lane
Jordan Smith - The Grind

THE GRIND: Lambert's Track Star Jordan Smith

By: Paul Dybas

Jordan Smith walks taller than she is.

The Lambert rising senior strides around on the balls of her feet, like sprinters are supposed to run. When Smith was younger, her parents once took her to the doctor to make sure walking that way wouldn’t cause long-term damage.

That was one sign Smith would turn into the track star she now is. There was her insistence on racing boys on the playground, and how she led her AAU basketball team’s full-court press and earned the nickname “Crazy Jo” for her enthusiastic defense.

Smith just had to find her race.

She started focusing solely on track in high school, running and 100 and 200-meter dashes. Smith was good at those races, making the Longhorns’ varsity squad and running the 200 in the sectional meet as a sophomore.

At the end of her sophomore year, Lambert had a spot on a 4x400 relay that it needed filled, so Longhorns head coach John McCormick, seeing Smith’s proficiency in the 200, put her in, and she ran a 60-second split.

Smith started running the open 400 at the start of her junior season, and her times started dropping quickly and drastically. She started the season with a 1:00.70 at a Wednesday night meet on Feb. 22, got down to 56.74 by March 24, and then ran a 55.95 in the Region 5-7A meet on April 17. She bested that with a 55.51 in the state prelims, and while her time backed up in the finals, she came back and set a personal best with a 55.12 in the Meet of Champions on May 19.

“It was remarkable,” McCormick said of Smith’s progress.

The Grind - Jordan Smith
The 400 fully utilizes Smith’s blend of short-distance speed and middle-distance strength, though she was initially resistant, as many are, to the grueling nature of the race.

“I wish I had the gift I had for (400) for the (100),” Smith said. “Because the (100) isn’t as painful.”

Smith has grown to see the burn at the end of the race as evidence that she’s really pushing, though, and she’s begun to optimize how she runs the 400, which can be a highly technical race. She sprints out of the blocks, cruises down the back straight and the kicks again with 200 meters to go. Smith is now trying to switch that up, sprinting the first 150 and the last 150, with a shorter cruising period.

“You have to have your mind right when you’re running the 400,” she said. “It’s a lot of thinking involved.”

Smith is thinking about more than her race strategy now – her breakout spring has also made her seriously look at the idea of running track in college. She has been filling out questionnaires with her father, Ralph, who played football for the University of Georgia, and has the Division I ranks on her mind.

Track and field has an abnormally short recruiting calendar, so Smith will find out where she stands in July, when she can officially start talking with coaches. She’ll also be using the summer to stay in shape, and in the fall, she plans to start running in meets again.

Smith’s goals for next year are both team and individually focused. She wants Lambert to claim the region track title that the Longhorns lost by one point to South Forsyth this past spring. She wants to get her 400 time under 53.52 and her 200 time under 24.7 – Smith wants to run both events in college, and working on the foot speed needed for the 200 will also help her 400 time.

“I don’t want to be a one-trick pony for college,” she said.

Smith might add another race to her repertoire, too. McCormick has talked to her about running the 800 meters, which would push the limits of Smith’s strength.

Right now, she’s against it, but trying new things on the track has worked out well for Jordan Smith.