South Portland native Steven Smith was no stranger to the podium, the senior competing for West Virginia University Institute of Technology has been the indoor national runner-up in the NAIA 3k racewalk the past two seasons. In his final indoor championship, the 2017 Class A 1600m racewalk champion had one goal in mind the national title.
"My goal was definitely the national title. I've been runner up the last two years and was disqualified my freshman year so at the very least I wanted to get the title." Smith told Maine MileSplit of his goals entering the 2020-21 season.
Entering the championship which took place at the Ruth Donohoe Fieldhouse on the campus of Mount Marty in South Dakota, Smith was the top seed in the event with a seed time forty-four plus seconds faster than the second seed.
As soon as the gun went off Smith went to the front opening up a four-second gap on the field after just 200m. He would dominate the race by forty-two seconds with his 12:26.92 winning effort.
"I was not very surprised, I knew I was in very good shape and wouldn't have too much competition. But I definitely didn't count anyone out because the national meet is where everyone brings their best." Smith told Maine MileSplit about his dominating performance.
Smith will now turn his attention to the Pan American Cup Trials in New Jersey on March 27th. At the race, he'll be looking to hit the United State Olympic Trials qualifying standard in the 20k distance of 1:36 or faster. Last year Smith walked a 1:34.16 in his 20k effort which would have qualified him for the trials if they hadn't been postponed due to COVID-19.
Steven said that he has been focused on this race, "I don't think the 3k is my best distance for sure. I've been training for the Olympic distance, a 20k but at the moment I'd say my best performance has been in the 10k distance."
After the 20k race, he will get focused on the NAIA outdoor season where he'll look to add the 5k national title to his resume, and hopefully break the WVU Tech school record of 21:36.
"After missing last outdoor season definitely ready to get after it for one last season, time-wise mostly going for low 21's in the 5k," Smith said of the upcoming outdoor campaign.
Smith wasn't the only former Maine racewalk standout competing at the NAIA nationals last weekend. In the women's race, there were four Maine athletes competing. Leading the way was freshman Stefanie Meacham who also competes for WVU Tech, Meacham competed for Gorham High School earned All-American honors in her first national meet clocking 15:46.67 for 3k to place sixth. Right behind her was Kayla Allen of Friends University who competed for Lewiston High School. Allen a senior earned All-American honors in seventh place with her 15:46.71 effort.
Junior Moira Burgess of Friends University placed tenth in 16:31.17, Burgess competed for Monmouth Academy in high school. Goshen University junior Hayley Bickford finished twelfth with a time of 17:10.83, Bickford competed for Gorham High School