PICKERINGTON — Northwest’s Landen Smith simply looked so spent.
Quite frankly, he looked like he had went through pure unadulterated hell —like a rumble with maybe a mountain lion.
Following Friday’s 4x800m relay race as part of the Division II state track and field meet inside a sweltering but jam-packed Pickerington North High School, Smith slumped to the ground on the infield grass just after completing his grueling 800m anchor leg.
His 4x800m teammates — fellow seniors Gabe Morrell and Josh Shope and junior Mason Breech —took the liberty of helping him to the tent area at the 50-yard line — where the Mohawks waited to take their place on the awards podium after finishing a fantastic state runner-up.
Inside that tent, Smith spent the next few minutes coughing, spitting, vomiting and dousing water over his neck to cool himself off.
He made it up on the awards podium with a little help from his friends, those fellow Mohawk 4x8ers, then slowly but surely made his way outside of the immediate track area for an interview.
You would never know it of course by that vivid description, but it was actually a look of near-perfection —following a near-perfect Northwest race.
The Mohawks motored around the track to the time of a school-record shattering and epic seven minutes and 54 seconds (12 one-hundredths of a second) —only to come within an eyelash of a state championship, which Woodridge won with an even faster and mind-boggling 7:52.40.
Yes, that’s correct.
Running a 7:54.12 and settling for state runner-up.
Then, on Saturday and following the same dog day time frame with the same steambath weather in Pickerington, Smith went out and somehow and someway duplicated another near-flawless run —this time amounting another state runner-up in the boys 1,600m.
Smith spectacularly put together a four-minute and 19-second mile, and again — astoundingly even — was the runner-up.
The only individual ahead of him — junior Drennan Akins of Cuyahoga Falls CVCA in 4:19.72.
Smith’s time to the hundredths of a second: 4:19.75.
Yeah, it was a photo finish for sure.
But for Smith, it wasn’t precisely picture-perfect like he completely — and unwaveringly — wanted.
“I don’t think it gets much tougher than what Landen went through. He executed the perfect race, but unfortunately he fell one step short. Moments like that will define his career,” said Northwest’s outgoing assistant coach Adam Schroeder, who worked exclusively with the distance runners. “Hopefully, he remembers it and uses it as motivation to have a great college career.”
But first, let’s review arguably the most decorated high school running career in the history of Scioto County —which will continue on now at Scioto County’s own Shawnee State University.
Smith was also a two-time all-Ohioan in cross country —placing 11th at that state championship meet as a junior, before moving up to crossing the line in sixth place in Division II as a senior.
Smith, Shope and Morrell also advanced twice (2018 and 2019) together in the 4x800m to the outdoor state meet, as their sophomore seasons saw that trio —along with Chase McClay —capture seventh-place and all-Ohio accolades in 8:04.
But Friday’s race, they destroyed that time by 10 seconds —as all four Mohawks ran an 800m PR (personal record).
For Smith, that was a screaming fast minute and 55, as it took Woodridge’s anchor leg a minute and 53 seconds to somehow pass him beyond the backstretch —and hold him off down the front.
“We came in knowing I would probably have to run a 1:55, and that’s what I did. I PR’d by two or three seconds myself. That kid just ran a 1:53. It happens,” said Smith. “Championship racing, you can do anything and anything can happen.”
Smith, although desiring the Mohawks could take home the gold medals awarded the state champions, said settling for silver on this stage should never be anything to be ashamed of.
“Everybody here is going to run good. We came in with the expectation that we wanted to win and we were confident, and we ran great today. We can’t complain with what we came out with,” he said. “I just told everybody before we went out there to leave it all out there. When we were done, we want to be happy. I think we’re all happy. Could we have been happier? Maybe? But it’s the state meet. It’s just awesome to be here and even better to be state runner-up.”
And, for Smith to do it twice in one weekend with the state’s eyes all upon him — that’s about as close to perfection as he can get.
Especially in his final two races at Northwest.
“All good things come to an end. We’ve all been friends since seventh eighth grade, and I couldn’t ask for a better team than what we have now. Running every day with the same guys, you become really good friends,” said Smith. “I wish the best for everybody here. We all deserve it.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved