Karrigan Smith has fond memories of the weekly mile runs that took place on Fridays while in seventh grade.
It was then when the recent St. Johns graduate started to fall in love with running.
And it was those Friday runs that set into motion what turned out as a decorated high school running career.
Smith blossomed into one of Michigan’s top distance runners during a career at St. Johns where she captured state championships in cross country and track. She capped her career with state titles in both sports and helped St. Johns win its first girls track team state championship in program history in May.
“I really couldn’t think of a better way (to end it),” said Smith, who is the LSJ female prep athlete of the year. “When I won my state title in cross country this year I was just on top of the world. To top it off with a couple of runner-up finishes in relays and a team state title in track and looking at all the expressions on my teammates’ faces — it was priceless. It made all the hard work that we’ve done over the season worth it. It was just an incredible moment to share with such incredible teammates.”
Smith, who will run at Michigan State this fall, had plenty of incredible moments during a career that was the most successful of any runner in St. Johns’ history. She was a four-time all-stater in cross country and was twice the Division 2 1,600-meter run champion at the state track meet.
Those were in addition to several other top finishes at area meets.
“Athletically, she’s literally accomplished everything she set out to do,” St. Johns cross country coach Bob Sackrider said. “Whether it’s within the league, within the area, the state, and she’s even competed in national events as well. In that regard — she is is the most decorated runner that we’ve ever had.
“Beyond that, her success is completely expected because if you know her as a young lady, you know that whatever she does, she does completely with the full force of her heart and her passion.”
Smith’s sophomore year was significant in her rise to an elite runner. After dual sporting in track and softball in the spring as a freshman, the focus shifted to the oval that year. And Smith capped that season by finishing second in the 1,600 and 800 runs at the state track meet behind Chippewa Hills standout Megan O’Neil, who now runs at Wisconsin.
That was when St. Johns track coach Neil Feldpausch knew he had a runner capable of accomplishing big things beyond high school. And that was when Smith realized her potential and felt more motivated than any other time in her prep running career.
“That’s where I realized I could become a state champion and I could make a mark in St. Johns history,” Smith said. “I knew that becoming a state champion was the next thing on my agenda and something I needed to accomplish before leaving St. Johns.”
Smith reached those goals over her final two seasons to leave a legacy she hopes will inspire those who follow in her footsteps at St. Johns.
“What I had hoped throughout my whole high school career was just to have people know that if you work hard and you put your mind to what you want to do, you can accomplish it,” Smith said. “You just have to have a lot of faith in God, faith in yourself especially and know that you can accomplish way more than you even think possible.
“I think that’s what’s so cool about this sport is there’s so much room for improvement. The results are on paper so you can see it from year to year. It’s just a really cool way to see your progress and see how you’re doing as the years go on.”