By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
WAVERLY — Waverly senior Cora Smith will continue her track career, and begin one in cross country at the highest level next fall after signing a National Letter-of-Intent with Division I James Madison University here Tuesday in a ceremony in the learning commons at Waverly High School.
Smith said she discovered James Madison by chance, and started the process that led her to becoming a Duke.
“I actually found them,” said Smith. “We drove by the campus one day, and I really liked the look of it. I reached out to the coach, and we scheduled a meeting.
“He was really interested in me, and I was really interested in the program,” she added. “Everything worked out.”
Smith said James Madison is everything she wanted in a school.
“First of all, they have a really good academic program for intelligence analysis, which is what I’ll be studying.
“One, it was location,” said Smith. “Two, it was the size of the school and the atmosphere. And, three the team, the coach, and the environment was really nice.”
Smith believes the James Madison coaching staff will bring the best out of her.
“The coaching staff has been there for a long time,” she said. “They know how to work with each athlete to add in the right amount of miles, and will be monitoring what I do.”
Considering Smith did not run cross country in high school, and did not run track until her sophomore year, her rise to Division I is even more impressive.
Smith, who debated running cross country this fall, but ultimately played her fourth year of varsity soccer, has no regrets.
“I’m glad I played soccer. I had a really good time with the group of girls that was there.
“Cross country would have been foreign to me, so I’m glad I stuck with soccer,” she said. “I have a lot of good memories this year.”
Longtime Waverly cross country and girls track & field coach Scott Baird is glad Smith found her way back to running.
“She ran indoor track for me as an 8th-grader, but she chose soccer and left the program,” he said. “It wasn’t until her sophomore year that we talked and worked something out where she could play soccer and still run.
“I think that put a bigger bug in her to work hard, and she wasn’t going to be denied,” added Baird. “Hopefully, that will pay off and we can get her to States in a couple of events this spring.”
Baird believes Smith made the right choice for her collegiate athletic career.
“I didn’t know which route she was going to go, even though I thought running was a better option for her, and I’m glad she chose it … the talent was there and the work ethic was really there.
“It took her until last year to see what she was capable of doing, and there’s still more there,” said Baird. “I’m hoping this indoor season will get her ready for the outdoor season.”
Smith is looking forward to the fall.
“Cross country will be new and exciting,” she said. “I’m excited about James Madison, it’s going to be fun.”
Smith will be studying Intelligence Analysis.
IN PHOTO 1: Waverly’s Cora Smith. IN PHOTO 2: From left: James Smith (father), Cora Smith, and Kim Smith (mother). … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.
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