Smith man of many seasons

By Jeff Nations

QUICKSBURG — If Stonewall Jackson High School junior Derrick Smith isn’t suffering from a severe case of season confusion, it’s a wonder.

Smith is doing his best these days to confound his body as to what part of the year it really is. A football player first and foremost, Smith spends as much time as possible in the weight room and doing agility drills to prepare for another season as the Generals’ top running back.

It’s not fall, though — with spring just around the corner (allegedly), Smith wraps up his football work just in time to hit the track to put in some laps for that season.

Then there’s his part-time job, which mercifully is just weekends now — he’s a snowboard instructor at Bryce Resort, bundling up to rocket down the slopes as often as he can.

“It’s definitely weird,” Smith said. “Your muscles are a lot tighter, so you’ve got to do a lot of stretching to keep from pulling muscles.”

Smith said his winter-centered work at Bryce should be ending after next weekend, but could go longer if the snow base holds up. Until then, he’s happy to prepare for the fall (football) and spring (track) while enjoying the winter on his snowboard.

“The hard part is going from track practice to snowboarding,” Smith said. “I’m dead tired from practice, too tired to snowboard, but it’s not too bad teaching little kids. I don’t have to be on my board much because they’ve never done it before, so it’s more talking and helping them off the ground then actually being on my board.”

As the Generals’ go-to running back this season, Smith piled up 992 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. He also picked up an ankle sprain, which cost him some time on the football field and is still a bit of a lingering issue now. Smith said he’s about 90 percent healthy and getting better each day.

The Generals are counting on Smith to be a solid contributor on the track team again this year.

Smith, who ran track as a middle schooler, dropped the sport to focus on football and basketball as a freshman. He changed his mind for his sophomore season last year, dropping basketball and picking up track once more. It helped that Generals football coach Dick Krol also happens to coach the school’s track team.

“He was disappointed that I didn’t run track, and I was a little disappointed in myself for not running,” Smith said.

Smith hit the track as a sophomore thinking he’d improve his speed for football season as a sprinter. Krol told him to keep going.

“I didn’t want to run it,” Smith said. “Coach had me try it one day and I wasn’t bad at it. I kept working with it and my times kept improving. I kept pushing myself and I just kept improving. It kind of became my event.”

Smith, who finished as the area’s fastest in the 400, finished second in that event at the Shenandoah District meet, fifth in the Region B meet and 13th at the Group A state meet last year.

“He’s not the fastest, but he is able to run the whole race the same way,” Krol said. “We have watched many times where in a relay he’ll be way behind and he’ll catch up, and it’s not a matter that he catches up quickly. He just methodically gets there. In the 400 it’s the same way — a lot of kids will break out of there and just take off. He’s just methodical and works at it.”

Smith will be busy for the Generals. He expects to also compete regularly in the 200 meters, run a leg on Stonewall’s 1,600-meter relay and also do a bit of long jumping. But it’s the 400 where Smith will likely have the biggest impact again this season, which suits Krol just fine since that happens to be one of his favorite events.

“The fact that he qualified to go to states last year in the quarter, in the first year that he’s ever really run it, is right impressive,” Krol said. “And he’s a good kid. He’s not going to cause us any trouble. Football is the main thing and he’s put on 20 pounds since football and it hasn’t shown to be any detriment yet, and we hope it doesn’t.”

Smith knows the ever-watchful Krol won’t let him slack during workouts.

“He’s a 400 man, too, so I think he wants me there,” Smith said. “He makes sure my form’s good, my stride’s good and that I’m not really doing anything goofy.”

Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or jnations@nvdaily.com>