Calvert’s Smith set to defend state title

Calvert coach Stewart Behm had to know, as early as last June – barring something weird – that he and Olivia Smith would be here.

Expectations for Smith jumped for this season the second the then-sophomore crossed the line first in the 800 race at the 2012 state meet in Columbus.

Never one to disappoint, Smith has answered those expectations with an ever-present smile, seemingly grinning ear-to-ear as she claimed the 800 championship at the Midland Athletic League, district and regional meets.

Smith will be in Columbus trying to repeat. And though the expectations are different than last year, Smith said there are positives this time around that weren’t there before.

“It’s exciting, definitely. Last year I didn’t have any experience at the state track meet, so obviously it was very nerve-racking being down there the first time,” she said. “But this year, I have a little more experience and I’m looking forward to it. The experience of being down there is great. No matter what happens down there, as long as I go down there, have fun, try my best, it’s going to be a great weekend.”

Behm said Smith has taken this season – and the expectations for a repeat – in stride.

“That’s one of the things we’ve always talked about; we’ll take this one meet at a time,” Behm said. “If she’s feeling pressure she’s doing a very good job of not showing it. Knowing Olivia, I don’t think there is pressure.”

Behm said he had been joking with Calvert assistant Rush Arbogast that the 800s at meets had gotten boring because Smith was winning by so much. He said Smith was challenged more at regionals than anywhere else this season. And in that race she ran 2:17.46 and had the nearest competition beat by 40 meters.

“With as little drama as possible, she did what she had to do to win meets,” Behm said. “It wasn’t ’cause she was trying to beat her opponents into the ground. She was just trying to improve herself.”

But while the focus for area spectators may be on the 800, Smith has some other things going on.

With some friends.

Smith is anchoring two relays that will compete Friday for the Senecas, the 4×800 and the 4×400. Each relay features the same four girls – Olivia Smith, Danielle Kontak, Morgan Smith and Marisa Horn. Olivia Smith is the only one of the group who has competed at state before this year.

“It’s very different. It just takes that motivation one step further, because you want to do this for them,” Olivia Smith said. “You want to succeed together, because you all put in the hard work to be where you are. You all want to work together as a team and do it for each other, and that just speaks to the closeness we have with each other. We all rely on each other, we all encourage each other and we run together, so we want to do our best.”

They will get their chance right away. The final for the Division III 4×8 is the first event held at the meet.

Behm said that could be a good thing for the first-timers.

“They’ll start warming up [early],” Behm said. [They’re] not gonna have time to stand around and be in awe of everything.”

From there, Behm said he expected there to be about a two-and-a-half hour window for the girls to relax and ready for the 4×4 preliminary. It will place the four in a position they haven’t been in often. Usually they don’t have much time to prepare for another event.

“It will be fun to see what they can do,” Behm said.

Behm was asked whether he was concerned about how the two freshmen – Morgan Smith and Kontak – will respond to the atmosphere at state.

“Normally I might say yeah, but not with these two … knowing how hard those two have worked to get to this level, I know they will step and do just fine,” he said.

The coach has to feel the same way about Shane Boehler. Last year, Shane’s brother, Ren, competed in four events for the Senecas. This year, it’s Shane who has maxed out his events at state, getting ready to compete in the 100, 200, 4×100 and 4×200.

Ren will join his twin on the relays, along with Tyler Long and Austin Ball.

Behm said he thought Shane Boehler could have a big season.

“I knew based on last year’s performance he had a chance to do this last year,” he said. “He came very close last year. I knew about the time we got the bigger invitationals (and) he was winning quite handily that qualifying in four events was a possibility.”

Shane Boehler said he’s excited to get to Columbus.

“It’s great,” he said. “Get a lot of people down there, we have fun in the hotel room. A lot of people, the experience is really good, especially for the first time. Last year I had a great time, so I’m looking forward to it.”

While Behm said Shane Boehler has been outstanding, his teammates on the relays have been as well.

“You can have the fastest guy in the state, and if you don’t have three (great) guys to go with them, it doesn’t matter,” Behm said. “Expectations are extremely high. They know where they’re at, they know what they can do.”