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A Look at Track and Field in Madison County

By Greg Hammond
By ghammond@wbbjtv.com

When it comes to track and field in Madison County, Jay Smith is among the pioneers.

"We built a program from no one coming out to track to kids recruiting kids to participate on the track team,” Smith said.

Smith coached track and field at South Side High School from 1993 to 2000.

His athletes earned more than eight state championships and several second place finishes at Spring Fling.

“We took kids who had no facility to properly train on, built team unity and the last four years of coaching at South Side we were first or second in the region,” said Smith.

There were several highlights during Smith’s tenure as coach.

"1999 and 2000 were our most successful years," Smith said.

Smith coached Jabari Greer during Greer’s run to seven TSSAA state track and field titles. James Courtney earned a state championship in discus under Smith’s watch during that time as well.

Across the county, however, the state of the sports has not improved.

"It's gotten worse," said Smith.

Smith, who coached track and field for nearly 30 years, noted the deterioration of the track at Hollywood and the missed opportunity to
provide a regulation track at Liberty when the magnet school was built in 2003.

There was talk of adding a lane and running surface to the Liberty track earlier this summer, but that request has been moved from the district’s plans.

"I was glad they took it off the table,” said Smith.

“If you're not going to do it right, don’t do it,” Smith said.

An additional lane at Liberty, Smith said, would still be one under the regulated number to hold official meets. Liberty currently has six lanes. A track must have 8 lanes to host a region or state meet.

Smith said ideally there needs to be a track facility at each of the five public high schools, but in order to do that the district and community leaders need to think outside the box.

"Corporate money, some sponsorship somewhere to help build facilities that need to be built,” Smith said.

The former Memphis State University assistant track coach believes that having proper facilities is the only way for the sport to have a greater impact in the district.

“There are so many undiscovered athletes walking the halls because the opportunity is not there for them,” Smith said.

Smith recently announced his retirement from teaching after 41 years.
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