McDERMOTT — Landen Smith has ran far and long across Southeastern Ohio in his four years as a Northwest Mohawk.
And, he —easily arguably Scioto County’s most decorated distance runner in history — could have ran at the collegiate level far from home.
However, Smith — in what has to be one of the biggest running catches in Shawnee State’s strong recent memory — will be running right smack dab in Scioto County still, as on Wednesday the track and field and cross country star officially announced his intention to run for the Bears.
In a signing ceremony at Northwest High School, Smith signed his necessary paperwork with family, friends and fellow Mohawk runners looking on — as the son of Darryn Dillow and Sarah Smith soon will be running alongside the other elite company which makes up the Bears’ programs.
Smith was also flanked by his Northwest distance track and cross country coach Adam Schroeder, Northwest High School head track and field coach and athletic director Dave Frantz, and decorated Shawnee State University men’s cross country and track and field head coach Eric Putnam.
Oh, and then there’s Smith’s girlfriend Haidyn Wamsley — the Northwest standout herself who has already committed to Shawnee State for volleyball and track and field.
Smith — a year-round runner with cross country consisting of July thru November, indoor track and field from November thru March, and outdoor track and field from March thru June — said Division II Walsh was in the proverbial running for his service, and even eventually Division I Marshall made “a really good” scholarship offer.
Smith explained that “he almost pulled the trigger” and made the visit to Marshall, but when the nationally-renown Putnam approached and offered him about running right in Scioto County and 20 minutes away from his house, he “couldn’t turn it down”.
“I mean I get to stay home, he (Putnam) is a really great coach, and they’ve (Bears) been a great program which has a good chance at winning a (NAIA) national championship next year. I would like to be a part of that. I talked to Coach Putnam, he sent me a really good offer, and I couldn’t say no,” said Smith. “I was looking at places I thought I could go, I ran all these years and I want and need money. My biggest thing was looking for a college that could offer me the most money and had what I was looking for in a degree. So Shawnee State had what I wanted and it’s really close to home.”
Putnam, in his 17 years of leading the Bears programs, said Smith’s storied career is in a class by itself.
“In Scioto County, he would have the best cross country and track running resume of any individual we’ve ever signed,” said the coach. “Landen is probably the best, honestly, that we’ve ever signed from this area. So we are thrilled.”
As for Smith’s list of accomplishments, they are about as long as the one mile, two miles or even 3.1 miles he is always accustomed to running.
Already, he is a two-time Division II all-Ohioan in cross country, having placed 11th as a junior at the coveted state meet —before securing a sixth-place state finish and a personal-best 5K time in this year’s state championship as a senior.
As Smith’s senior season state meet took place inside Fortress Obetz compared to his junior year at National Trail Raceway, his 16:00.3 is a personal-best — and established on an Indian Summer and sun-soaked afternoon at high noon.
And, that was after his previous personal-best — of 16 minutes and four seconds in his junior season state meet.
He also captured the Division II Region 7 championship as a senior.
“That (all-Ohio cross country career) meant everything,” said Smith. “I think that’s why I got those scholarship offers. Marshall and other schools saw that.”
In indoor track and field, he has twice anchored the Mohawks’ state-qualifying and all-Ohio 4x800m relay teams, as this year’s foursome — which also included junior Kailan Marshall and fellow seniors Gabe Morrell and Josh Shope — was the Division II runner-up in eight minutes and seven seconds.
Smith also clinched individual all-Ohio indoor honors, placing seventh in the one-mile in four minutes and 33 seconds.
Last season, Smith secured a ninth-place effort in the 1,600m run —and missed all-Ohio accolades by a mere 44 one-hundredths of a second.
Smith, Morrell and Shope also advanced twice (2018 and 2019) in the 4x800m to the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s outdoor state championship meet inside Ohio State University’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, as Smith’s sophomore season saw that trio —along with Chase McClay —capture seventh place and all-Ohio accolades in 8:04.
He also made it to state in the mile, and was the only sophomore to do so in Division II, running the four laps in 4:27.
Of course, those Mohawks collectively and Smith individually would have likely qualified for the state meet again last year —but unfortunately the OHSAA cancelled the 2020 season because of the coronavirus threat.
But so far this April, Smith and the Mohawks have already rolled in distance events at invitationals at Jackson, Minford, Waverly and Portsmouth — with their host Mohawk Invitational set for Tuesday evening (April 27).
In the two-mile run at Minford two weeks ago, Smith set the new Northwest record — completing the eight laps in nine minutes and 50 seconds.
But that’s the past, and while the final week of April and all of May and June await Smith still, he’s already excited about running for Putnam and the Bears.
In fact, he has “ran with the Shawnee boys all throughout high school”, including NAIA National Champion and former Piketon star Seth Farmer.
“I think it will be fun. It will be exciting for sure,” said Smith. “Running with Seth Farmer probably sparked a big interest in me to go to Shawnee State. If anybody from here can make it that far, so why couldn’t I? They’ve never really had a slump, they always have kids make it to nationals and they do good at nationals. As a team, I think we can have a good chance at the national championship the next few years. Next year, it will be more team-based running. Here I have been the top dog with my teammates just a half-a-step behind me. It will be different not being the top runner, but it will be fun and it will train me harder than I’ve ever been trained.”
Smith said he plans to major in Electromechanical Engineering, and is indeed eager about remaining running in Scioto County.
For Putnam and his Bears, it’s a prize pickup.
“We’re thrilled. Landen is a year-round guy who could have gone many places and was offered scholarships from Division I and II schools. He will score many points for us in all three seasons,” he said. “I would be stunned if he didn’t. For him to come to Shawnee State, it says a lot.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved