James Smith isn’t your typical high school distance track and field runner. The Mariner High School senior is a regular in the weight room, making him bulkier than most of his competitors. And despite specializing in distance events he also found himself competing in sprint events, as he was set to anchor the Marauders’ 1,600-meter relay before the coronavirus outbreak forced the cancellation of high school spring sports.
Smith, who earned 12 varsity letters during his prep career in track, cross country and swimming, won’t be continuing his athletic career beyond high school. Instead, he’s headed into the United State Marine Corps with the intention of joining the Special Operations Command.
We caught up with Smith for the latest edition of our Spring Sports Senior Salute:
What were your goals for the 2020 track season?
I wanted to break 4 minutes, 30 seconds in the mile (his personal best coming into the season was 4:47). I also wanted to make my 400 (meters) time a lot faster.
As a distance runner, what’s it like being a part of the 1,600 relay?
I think it’s pretty cool because the 400 is more of a sprinter’s race, and as a distance runner I think I perform well in what’s a sprinter’s race. I find it extremely fun, honestly it’s my favorite event. I like the competition, I think it’s more up there in that event. And I love that it’s an event that I do with teammates, too.
You said you spend a lot of time in the weight room, which isn’t something one hears often from distance runners. Why do you put the time into the weight room?
I love the weight room. That came from swimming. It for sure made me more defined, and it definitely made me improve my times over the years. I’d say strength is something a lot of distance runners don’t really look at or work on as much, and I think that gives me an advantage.
You were a team captain as a junior and were set to be a captain again this year. What did that mean to you?
I’m going to miss being able to lead my team. Getting to lead the team and have people look up to you is probably the best part of being a captain. It’s always making sure my team is in check or is sharp, so they they’re always ready to compete. And that they’re positive and always have a goal to reach, too.
Why did you decided to pursue Special Ops with the Marine Corps?
Over my years of track and stuff like that, I noticed I tend to have some challenge in front of me, something that’s hard and that I have to work at. I think Special Forces is a great way to have that really hard challenge and have something to always go after. It’s not something that a lot of people can do, that’s what I like about it.