A moment with a champion
It was supposed to be a steal.
A quick moment where a writer could have a non-objective moment with an athlete after a tremendous achievement.
When Calvert’s Olivia Smith won her second-consecutive state championship in the 800 meters last spring at Jesse Owens Stadium in Columbus, I wanted to congratulate her.
But I’d interviewed her a number of times, and was really happy for her, almost proud.
Smith is a star athlete in achievement, but not attitude. She doesn’t lack confidence, but she’s not an in-your-face competitor.
She’s an easy person to pull for. She’s never without a smile and a kind word for everyone. And I wanted her to know I was pulling for her.
So I had this idea.
I’d walk up to her, put my hand up and give her a quick high-five.
A second. No one would ever see it. But she’d know how happy I was for her.
Sure enough, after she won, she walked over to me for an interview.
She high-fived me.
And that was it.
I was back to objective reporter.
And that’s how things would have ended, except for one minor, quizzical detail.
I never saw A-T photographer Kyle Hunter.
So, when I returned to Tiffin that day, I was a little apprehensive when our online editor, Jill Gosche, said “Zach, you have to see this great photo of you and Olivia I put on Facebook.”
Still, if the event had been captured the way I’d have envisioned it, it would have shown it for what it was – a low-key gesture.
Then I saw the photo.
I looked as though I was celebrating a Stanley Cup winning goal with her. I couldn’t have looked more like a Calvert fanboy if I was wearing blue and white facepaint.
And the whole thing was viral.
After seeing the photo (and knowing how dialed in I had been the previous fall during Heidelberg football’s playoff run), I swore to myself I’d never allow myself to cheer for a local athlete or team again, or at the very least, never let anyone see it.
It’s our job to report and analyze. Not cheer.
But as it turns out, it will be hard for me to stop pulling for Smith.
Earlier this week, she signed a letter of intent to run for Ohio State’s women’s track team.
As usual, when asked about running for a big D-I program, Smith was ever smiling, but never even gave the appearance of gloating. Even with the possibility of a three-peat in the 800 possible, Smith almost downplayed it, saying she had a long way to go.
As a reporter, you almost want a coach or athlete to gloat a little.
It makes for good copy.
But no matter what Smith accomplishes this spring, or what she accomplishes at the collegiate level, it’s hard to see her ever losing that friendly, positive and measured style that has served her so well.
And that’s why, no matter what happens from here, I’m sure I’ll be hoping Olivia does well.
Even if I try to hide it.