Tavian Smith didn’t necessarily find his place in track and field. It was more like track and field found the West High senior with help from two of Smith’s friends.
Smith didn’t compete in track as a freshman or sophomore and he had no intention of doing it as a junior until he finally agreed to give it a shot last spring at the encouragement of then senior teammates Charles Rogers and Mondo Williams.
Smith had to be talked into it because he had a miserable experience running track in junior high. He didn’t like the extensive distance running that the sprinters were required to do in junior high and decided that the sport wasn’t for him despite his natural speed.
“They came up to me and were like, ‘Trust me, just come out for like a week and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it,'” Smith said of Rogers and Williams. “So I was like, ‘All right, I’ll give it a week.'”
One week turned into two weeks and then three weeks and now a year later Smith has a chance to end his high school track career in spectacular fashion.
How he performs at the state meet should go a long way in determining whether West can defend its Class 4A state title. Smith is scheduled to compete in the 100- and 200-meter races, in addition to the long jump and the 4×100 relay.
“It was just fun,” Smith said of why he stayed with track and field last year.
Smith has been a multi-sport athlete while at West, but he hasn’t stuck with a single sport throughout his four years. The closest he came was in basketball where Smith played up until his senior year this winter.
He chose to participate in show choir instead of playing basketball.
Smith developed at a quick pace last spring despite having been away from track and field for several years. He was a point-scoring force at the 2012 state meet where he helped West finish first in the 4×200 relay and third in both the 4×100 and medley relay events. He also finished third in the long jump.
“You need a person like that to be able to handle those individual events and build your relays up with other guys,” West coach Brian Martz said.
Music has been the one constant in Smith’s life. He has a passion for singing and enjoys sharing that passion with others, even while competing in track and field.
“I’m singing, like, the whole meet,” Smith said. “Even when I’m running there is something in my head playing, getting me pumped and getting me ready.”
Smith has a serious side that takes over during the heat of competition.
“I know what’s more important,” he said. “I know when something is important to the team. I know there is a lot of pressure on me.”
Smith hasn’t made a decision about college yet, although he would like to attend the University of Iowa and perhaps study music. His older brother, Gavin Smith, is a walk-on defensive back for the Iowa football team and Tavian said his brother wants him to follow in his footsteps.
Tavian Smith is reluctant to pursue football at the BCS level, though, because he isn’t sure if his body could withstand the pounding. He also is new to the game after having played football only as a senior at West where he was used mostly as a return specialist.
Martz thinks Smith has a bright future in track should he choose to pursue that path.
“I think he’s just scratching the surface, to be honest with you,” Martz said. “I think if track is something he wants to do beyond high school he’s going to be a pretty valuable member to any track team that he is on.
“I think the coaches will have fun with him, and I think they’ll have somebody there that they can work with and develop because he’s got a lot more to offer.”