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Interval Session #93 - Devon Smith

By SteveU - January 29, 2009

The best athletes are only made stronger by tests and difficulties, and Westlake MD senior Devon Smith is no exception.  When Smith’s family moved in fall of 2007, he transferred from Eleanor Roosevelt to Westlake.  The timing was such that he had to sit out his junior season in football, hindering his chances as a college recruit.  That winter, though, he quickly became part of the Westlake family in track under Coach Beth Shook, with the season culmination in a 4x200 Nike Indoor title for Westlake and a runner-up finish by Smith in the 60.

This past fall, Smith felt like he had to prove himself all over again – and did he ever:  He piled up more than 2,200 yards rushing and receiving and scored 30 touchdowns as the Wolverines won their first-ever state title.  Now Smith is already down to 6.21 in the 55 dash with an eye toward the national record of 6.14 and a few Nike Indoor individual and relay titles.  His next test will be Friday night in the Millrose Games Junior 60 Meters.  Before that, he took a few minutes to talk with DyeStat senior editor SteveU.

Smith, 2nd from left, was a key to the "Waldorf" (Westlake) 08 NIN 4x200 champs
Photo by Donna Dye

1) Congrats on your season so far, Devon, and on getting the invite to Millrose.  You’ve snipped your 55 time down to 6.21 so far this winter, but I understand you’re looking for a lot more.  What are your goals for indoor and what are the most important things you’re working on to try and achieve them?

My goals for the indoor season are to break the national record in the 55 meter dash, and to win our state meet, and win NIN in the 60 meter dash.  The most important things I'm working on are my block work and finishing my races.  I need to concentrate on staying focused on my race.
2)  This week you have the Millrose Games in New York, one of the great historic track meets in the country.  Can you tell us about how you got the chance to participate and what you’re looking forward to most about the meet?

Coach Shook was contacted by the people at Millrose.  The night before they called, we had been talking about what I needed to do to be able to run in the meet.  I'm looking forward to meeting the track stars that will be there, and competing against the best athletes and running my race.

3) Last winter, you were just .01 away from winning the 60 at Nike Indoor and you were part of the championship 4x200 team.  What were each of those experiences like and what did you learn from them to take into this season?  Are you planning to run NIN again?

   Smith with Coach Beth Shook's son, Jon.
Photo Beth Shook

To run with the guys I ran with in the 4 x 200 was truly a blessing; it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to run with that much talent on one team.  Running in the 60-meter dash was a learning experience for me.  The .01 hurt when I realized how close I was, but then I took away from the race the things I needed to do to perfect the race.

Yes, I will be running in the 60 at NIN.  As a relay team, we are the defending champions and even through there are three new members, we intend to defend our title.

4) We don’t talk a lot of football in our DyeStat interviews, but I’ve read where you had a great season last fall and helped Westlake to its first state title.  Having had a few months to reflect on that, how has that whole experience affected you as an athlete and a person?  Are there things from your experience in football this past fall that you try and bring over to track as a senior leader?

The great thing about football and track at Westlake is that many of the same people are involved in both.  We have football coaches who are also our track coaches, and many of my teammates from football are now my teammates for track.  It makes it very much like a family as we spend a lot of time together.  The difference between football and track is that in track you are out there all alone; there is no one to help you.  But having the support of your team, no matter what, is always important.

5) I’ve read you’ve verbally committed to Penn State.  Can you tell me about what were the decisive factors for you in choosing the Nittany Lions … and are you going to be able to fully participate in track, too?

The biggest factor for me in choosing Penn State was that I saw the opportunity to continue my football career as well as being given the chance to attend a top-notch university to further my education.  The coaching staff stayed true to me; not once did Coach Johnson switch up or change what he was telling me throughout the recruiting process.  Even though I am attending on a football scholarship, I will be running track for Penn State.
6) You seem to be an especially good at the shortest dashes, as well as strong at the outdoor sprints, too … but how important is it to get down to those really fast outdoor 100 and 200 times – like 10.2, 20-high?  What are the things you may be working on in training to get to the highest echelon outdoors?

The things I need to work on for outdoor are the same I've been working on for indoor:  my starts and finishing my races strong.  Training is the same.  It will be nice to be back outside and on the track instead of running in the hallways of the school.

7) Having transferred over from Roosevelt after your soph year, how hard was it to sit out in football as a junior and how motivated were you because of that this past fall?  What are some of the things you like best about the Westlake football and track coaches?

   Smith (right) dashing to victory in a meet earlier this year.  Photo Craig Amoss/RunningMaryland.com
It was very hard for me to sit out a season of football.  It's something I love.  I couldn't even bring myself to go and watch the Westlake games last year as it was painful to not be out there with the team playing.  In football, your junior year is very important in the recruiting process, so sitting out hurt me.  I had to work harder, be faster and make a name for myself all over again. 

In the long run, though, it has all paid off.  My coaches, both track and football, have always made me feel like I was part of the Westlake family.  They care about each of us on the team.

8)  Coach Shook says you are not a real outspoken leader, but prefer to let your actions speak for themselves.  What are some of the character traits you strive to show to others, especially the young athletes on your team?

Staying humble is a character trait that I've tried to keep.  We celebrate success and failures as a team; it's not one person.  I've tried to let the younger athletes know that they need to work hard and strive to make a name for themselves early on.

9)  Well, we can’t end this interview without asking about “Moo Moo,” certainly one of the more unique nicknames out there!  Please tell us about it.  Also, your coach says you are especially good at giving attention to some of the young children of the coaches who are sometimes at practice.  Is that possibly part of a larger interest in perhaps working with children in some capacity as a teacher, coach or otherwise, in the future?

My mother started calling me Moo Moo as a baby and it's followed me ever since.  My teachers and even Ms. Benson, our principal, call me Moo Moo – so I guess it's going to stick with me.  I enjoy having the young kids around.  I'm not sure about teaching, but coaching could very easily be in my future.  It would be fun to take what I learned and experienced and share it with younger kids, just like my coaches have done for me.

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