By Brad Fauber
STEPHENS CITY -- The week and a half after Chris Smith developed tendonitis in his left knee following a track and field meet on April 6 was a tough period for the Sherando senior.
Smith, last year's Group AA high jump champion and a key component to the Warriors' boys track and field team this season, was forced to miss two meets -- including the Turner Ashby Invitational -- and the fact that he was unable to compete didn't sit well with Smith.
"I felt really bad. I felt like I let my team down because I'm supposed to be a leader," Smith said.
But his injury -- commonly referred to as "jumper's knee" -- could only keep Smith grounded for so long. The senior was back competing for Sherando in a limited capacity last week, and if the injury was still nagging at him during Saturday's Handley Invitational, it didn't show.
Smith, The Northern Virginia Daily's Male Athlete of the Week for April 14-20, took first place in the high jump in the 19-team event, clearing the bar at a height of 6 feet, 4 inches.
The senior also placed sixth in the long jump (19-08) and sixth in the 400-meter dash (53.60).
"I was able to do a decent job in the long jump and the 400. I did better than I thought I was going to do, especially in the high jump," Smith said. "[My knee] wasn't aching at first, but probably after 6-foot-2 [in the high jump], that's when it started aching a little bit more. I just fought through it and tried to do the best I could."
Smith typically competes in the all three jumping events, the 400M and as the Warriors' anchor in the 4x400 relay, but Sherando head coach Tom Grim has been easing Smith back into competition.
In a three-team event at Skyline last Wednesday, Smith only competed in the 400, which he won with a time of 53.88 seconds.
Smith said the pain in his knee isn't noticeable during the running events, but it's the jumping events that cause his knee to ache, as he uses his left leg as his take-off leg.
Smith will have three more events to get ready for the Northwestern District meet, which will be held on May 15 at Handley, and Grim said Smith will gradually be asked to do more and more during competitions as his knee begins to fully heal. Grim said it is likely that Smith will be limited to just a few events during this weekend's Apple Blossom Invitational at James Wood.
Smith expects to be fully healthy once the postseason meets roll around, and he will look to defend his state title in the high jump. The senior also has his eye on another goal.
"He would like to see seven feet," Grim said of Smith's high jump goal. "We'll have to see how his training goes. If he is able to push through it, I think it's feasible."
No outdoor track and field athlete has repeated as a state champion at Sherando, according to Grim, but Smith seems determined change that trend.
"It's a little pressure, but I can deal with it," Smith said. "The motivation for me is to just keep winning right now. Just keep winning and do the best that I can do, do the most that I can do, because this is my last year."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org