Smith swims six days a week, including four two-a-days. Also a member of the Eagles Swim Team, the club team based at McDonogh, Smith has qualified for the U.S. summer nationals in five events. His goal is to swim in the Olympics. Recruited by more than 50 college programs, Smith signed with Tennessee over Washington, Indiana, Penn State and Missouri. He plans to study broadcast journalism and wants to be an ESPN anchor. He has a 3.3grade-point average.
I got started in "Mommy and Me" classes when I was 9 months old. Then it moved on to my first competitive swimming experience at age 6, and my first meet, I was 7 years old.
What are your best events?
I do the sprints. The 50 free is my personal favorite, but I enjoy all the sprints, that and the butterfly. Anything 200 and under.
What does it take to be good at the sprints?
First of all, you have to have great technique, and I don't think my technique would be where it is without my coach, Scott Ward. And you have to have the mental ability to swim everything flawlessly. Then the finish, you've got to stick the finish. Sprints always come down to the end.
You said you're in the pool training six days a week. Has there ever been a time when you felt as if you'd had enough of swimming?
You go through peaks and valleys when you swim, but you have to always remember your goals, and I think that has been the biggest thing for my success and my career. I've always had goals, and whether I achieve them or not, I will go in a minute and write new goal times. I'm very goal-oriented.
How do you juggle everything you have to do with school and swimming?
I think the biggest thing that swimming has taught me is time management. I've learned how to balance school, how to balance swimming. My thing is just having a very regimented schedule. I have to thank my dad for that. He's the one who's taught me how to stay organized and how to stay on top of my studies and on top of my swimming.
Did you watch the Olympics?
Oh, yes. Every swim and lot of the track, too.
What do you think Michael Phelps has done for swimming?
Michael Phelps has made swimming mainstream, which is very hard to do. I wish I could be a quarter of the swimmer Michael Phelps is. He's a once-in-a-generation type of swimmer.
Does he inspire you?
Oh, yeah. He's inspired me by just looking at how much pain he went through with the Olympics. I've done three-day meets and four-day meets where during that last day, you're tired. I can't imagine doing nine-day meets. I've been really tired the fourth day. I can't imagine how physically and emotionally drained he was and how he was able to still dig deep when he didn't have any energy. Those final days of performances really show what type of heart he had. Everybody can get up and race the first day, but it's that last day, that to me is all heart.
Talk a little about your team. People think of swimming as an individual sport, but in high school, it's very much a team sport, isn't it?
For high school swimming, every man has to do their job. Whether your job is you're a five-time All-American and you have to get first for your team or your job is to get that sixth-place finish to scrape up points, it doesn't matter. It's just everybody working together as one, and I'm so happy my teammates elected me as their captain, along with Ian Slater, because I can share my passion with them.
How did you become interested in broadcast journalism?
First, I knew I had a passion for sports and whenever I would watch football games, I would say the commentary before the commentators, and my mom was like, "This is what you're made to do," and I almost feel like it is, too, because I watch games and I'll pick up things. The commentator will say it 10 seconds later exactly word-for-word.
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