Tavian Smith, the sometime singer and dancer, basketball player, football player and sprinter, seemed to symbolize the West boys track team Saturday. A team of many parts and many different talents, personalities and backgrounds, battered and bruised, somehow the Trojans managed to fight their way to a state runner-up finish. Linn-Mar won the title with 72 points to 57 for West.
“It’s really a testament to our kids,” coach Brian Martz said. “Some things didn’t go our way, but they didn’t quit. They kept battling. They scored in 12 events, and it took all 12 events to get where we are.
“We had a few bumps in the road Thursday and another one on Friday. We came back. That’s how the process works.”
Smith, still nursing a sore hamstring from Thursday, was right there with the rest of the field in the 100 meters, finishing fourth in 11.23. Anthony Dreeszen of Sioux City East won in 11.11.
“Coaches told me come out here and do what I can,” Smith said. “You can still try to get it. I tried, fought through the pain.”
That was just the beginning of Smith’s remarkable day. He turned around and won the 200 in 21.84, edging Perrion Scott of Linn-Mar by .02 seconds. Martz tried to lend perspective to what Smith accomplished.
“You can’t believe how much we got out of him,” Martz said. “He had a slight injury and he’d not had one before. It took an emotional adjustment to figure out how to handle it. He struggled more than most kids would, and he believed in himself, and the trainers helped him to have the confidence that he needed. Coach (Neil) Davis did a great job helping him believe in himself.
“For him to continue to progress from Friday morning’s long jump all the way through everything else that he did and to be a state champion in a class event was almost a miracle. I couldn’t believe that kid could do that in the state he was in Thursday night.”
Thursday night he couldn’t put weight on that leg. Smith was stricken with the thought that he’d let his teammates down.
“It was a setback for a time. I’m not going to lie,” Smith said. “When it first happened, I thought my season was over, but my teammates keep me up. Even back at the hotel room they were like, ‘Ice it down and take ibuprofen and you’ll be able to get back out there.’ I just listened. I kept ice on there.”
An ecstatic Smith was just as astounded as his coaches after the victory in the 200.
“I’m just surprised that I pushed through it like that. I mean, my hamstring was hurting, but it was worth it. I’m still so excited,” he said minutes after the victory.
“My coach was telling me just like in the 100, this is the last time, you’ve still got a chance to be a state champion. I took that to heart, my last race as a senior for West High. They told me come on, go get some points. That’s all I’m here for, to get my team those points.”
He got out of the blocks well, a key in the fast field. Then he had to deal with the hamstring.
“I just tried to go with the pain. That’s the whole game plan: ignore the pain and just run. So that’s what I did,” Smith said.
No one could get away, the race was that close. Less than one second separated first from seventh.
“The last 50 meters, coach just told me, ‘Stay smooth.’ He said I’ve got the speed. ‘You have the speed already so stay smooth and it will pay off,'” Smith said. “We both (he and Scott) had a good lean, and so I was like it could go either way. I was happy I ran a good race. It surprised me. I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I got it.'”
“Tavian learned something about himself this weekend,” Martz said. “He’s maybe not always been pushed like that in that way.”
West scored in several other events. Kaleb Greiner and Bailey Wetherell went 5-7 in the 800. Wetherell and Isaac Jensen both placed in the 1,600 and the 4×400 team was fifth after qualifying seventh in the prelims.
“Bailey Wetherell has been a rock,” Martz said. “To run one second off his personal best in his fourth race of the meet? He’s given all he’s got every night.”
But West has established itself as a perennial contender in boys track, not an easy thing to do. It’s won two titles and been runner-up three times since 2007.
“The coaches and the teachers we have working with the kids have put them in a position to believe they can be competitive at a high level,” Martz said. “We’re a real good invitational team, but this is a whole different ball of wax. I’m just really proud of our coaches and the parents who support our kids. That’s been consistent for us over 10 years.”