Until three weeks ago, Blanche Ely’s Rashad Smith was just another football player running track.
Then Smith started doing things a first-year sprinter isn’t supposed to, thrusting the senior in position to steal the show at the BCAA Track and Field Championships at Coral Springs High School on Saturday.
“I’m looking to open up alot of eyes on Saturday,’’ Smith said. “A kid out of nowhere just taking care of everything. When I first came out it was just to get better. Now I feel like I can take it. It went from a dream to a reality.”
Perhaps no runner has taken an unlikelier path to the county championships than Smith, who has qualified in the 100 meters, 200 and 400-meter relay. Smith admits he wouldn’t have picked up track had football yielded the scholarship offers he anticipated.
Back at full strength after a nagging ankle and groin injury robbed him of the explosiveness needed to be a big play wide receiver for the Tigers, Smith sees track as his last chance to earn a college scholarship.
“It was very disappointing knowing I needed this year to make a name for myself in football,’’ Smith said. “Every play meant everything. It hurt my chances of getting a football scholarship but I am looking to create a buzz in track and make up for the time I missed.”
Despite Smith's inexperience, Ely coach Anthony Jordan believes Smith's raw talent and competitiveness will allow him to push a loaded sprint field headlined by Deerfield Beach’s Cassius McDowell, the No. 1 seed in the 100, Piper’s John Reed and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Phillip Dorsett.
Jordan said Smith ran a personal-best 10.70 in the 100 at a dual meet and then finished second in the 100 at the Charles Johnson Jr. Invitational in Tampa last week.
The 200, however, is where Jordan believes Smith has even greater potential after watching Smith run it for the first time in the BCAA qualifier on Wednesday and clock 22.10 (No. 11 in Florida) to finish second.
“Right now Rashad is doing some amazing things for the first time running track,’’ Jordan said. “He didn’t get a scholarship in football so he is trying to get one in track and field. I expect him to win the 200. He wants to be the best.”
Along with Cyrus Johnson in the jumps, Ely should stay in contention for the boys title against defending champion St. Thomas Aquinas, which lost a probable 20 points with Cody Riggs failing to qualify in the 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles.
It should be a two-team battle for the girls title between defending champion Boyd Anderson and Fort Lauderdale.
The reigning Class 4A state runner-up Cobras feature Shayla Sanders, Sharniece Supal and Unique Williams in the sprints, Jasmine King in the hurdles and mid-distance star Imani Sudlow.
The Flying L’s will counter with Jahneel Terrell (jumps), Bianca Smith, Vernetia Irving and Shannay Gentles (hurdles).
St. Thomas Aquinas, led by Kirsten Nieuwendam and Alex Payne, should also challenge.
“Boyd Anderson has alot of depth on the track,’’ Flying L’s girls coach Grantis Bell said. “Field events is where we should do pretty good. I guess the 4x100 between us will be a heated race. It’s just a matter of going out and performing. To see who can take that pressure.”