The Bee's Spring All-Stars: Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year Mikaela Smith of Clovis North

The Fresno BeeJune 18, 2014 

There were 150 meters left in the 800 at the CIF State Track and Field Championships when one of the nation's premier runners made a move on leader Mikaela Smith.

And just when University of Washington-bound Anna Maxwell of San Lorenzo Valley-Felton approached Smith's right shoulder, a lot was to be learned of the defending champion from Clovis North.

It wasn't about speed.

It wasn't about endurance.

And it wasn't about technique.

Many in the crowd of 9,123 at Veterans Memorial Stadium on June 7 already associated those qualities with the junior, especially after she took the state by storm in the same event and venue a year earlier in a 2 minutes and 8.39 seconds -- No. 11 nationally for the season and No. 5 among sophomores.

And while this time Smith didn't stop, hoist Maxwell and pin her on the Mondo track, she might as well have -- just as she once did routinely as a three-time Clovis Unified District elementary wrestling champion from fourth through sixth grades.

Yes, wrestling.

"I think that's where my aggressiveness comes from," says Smith, The Bee's female Athlete of the Year in track and field who found Maxwell's presence unwelcome, blew away and won comfortably in 2:06.85 -- No. 7 nationally for the season and No. 2 all-time in the Central Section.

"Wrestling, that's my tomboy side," she says. "My (elementary) coach never taught me moves; he just taught me how to pick them up and drop them, so that's what I did."

Smith was also for years a youth soccer star -- "Used to be my No. 1" -- but it was only in this, her junior year, that she dropped the sport to concentrate on track and field.

"And this was the first year I ran without injuries," she says. "So I'm seeing a little pattern, a positive pattern."

As do others on the next level. Clovis North assistant coach Jason Lienau lists several: LSU, Florida, Miami, Kentucky, UCLA, USC, Arizona, Oregon, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and North Carolina to start with.

College opportunities are, indeed, promising for Smith: "I'm totally open. It's just a matter of staying healthy and keeping my grades up; that's all I need to do my senior year. This is new to me and my parents, who went to Sacramento State (but not on scholarship). So they're just riding the wave with me."

Impressive, this surf.

Only North of Bakersfield's Linda Goen -- with a 2:05.43 in 1977 -- has clocked a faster 800 than Smith in section history, according to historian Ron Blackwood.

And that's a natural target for Smith, who has buried her qualifying times off section finals in the past two state meets.

In 2013: She won the section Masters 800 in 2:12.59, then the state in the 2:08.39.

This year: She won the Masters in 2:11.08, then the state in the 2:06.85.

"She competes to the level she needs to," says Lienau, a section 1,600 champion in 1986 for Clovis before becoming a two-time Big West Conference cross country champion at Fresno State.

Smith clocked 200-meter splits of 31 seconds, 32, 32 and 31 in the textbook performance two weeks ago. And for all of Maxwell's brilliance -- more geared to longer distance, fairly -- she had no shot.

"When Maxwell came up on Mikaela, that's all (Maxwell) had," Lienau says, "so Mikaela saw her in the corner of her eye and took off. To be honest, I know Mikaela and she's very competitive. And when someone comes up on her shoulder, she's not going to give up that spot -- her competitive spirit will come out."

Smith's spikes will remain on the move this summer, taking her from Hanford to Florida (with travel team Valley Vipers) to Eugene, Ore. (USA Junior Nationals) and -- in the best case scenario -- to Moscow and China (USA Youth Olympics), depending on selections.

Lienau knows this: "By the end of the summer, she'll need a break, for sure."

GIRLS TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: MIKAELA SMITH

* Grade: Junior

* School: Clovis North

* Golden three-peat in 2015? Smith defended her CIF State Track and Field Championships 800-meter title with a time of 2 minutes and 6.85 seconds -- No. 7 nationally for the season and No. 2 all-time in the Central Section. Only North of Bakersfield's Linda Goen (2:05.43, 1977) has clocked faster in the section. Smith, in the section Masters meet, also placed third in the long jump (17-7½), fourth in the 1,600 relay (3:56.18) and eighth in the 200 (25.57) while scoring 18.25 of her team's title-winning 112 points -- the first section female track and field plaque in the history of a school graduating its fourth senior class.

 

The reporter can be reached at aboogaard@fresnobee.com or @beepreps on Twitter.

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