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South Boston's Smith looks to shine in Sunday's Division 4 track meet

Posted by Justin Rice  May 23, 2013 03:10 PM

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Daitannah Smith won her third straight city championship in the 200-meter dash. Now she's looking to win her first state meet title on Sunday. (Barry Chin /Globe Staff)

Before last week’s Boston City League outdoor track and field championships at White Stadium, Daitannah Smith never really threw the javelin seriously.

Going into the event, the South Boston junior didn’t seem to mind that she was the second seed at 75 feet 5 inches, behind New Mission’s Ashly Guerrier (76-2).
That was no longer the case once Guerrier outthrew her on the first toss.

“Second place is not me," said Smith. "I’m like, 'No.' So I just threw it.”

Smith wound up blowing Guerrier out of the water with a toss of 103-8 to qualify for Sunday’s Division 4 state meet at North Reading High.

Now she hopes throwing the javelin this weekend will help calm her nerves for her main event, the 200-meter dash — an event in which she had the No. 1 time in the state for much of this spring.

On Sunday, Smith will be the top seed in the 200 with a time of 25.74 seconds. Considering that last year’s Division 4 winner ran a 26.82 and the No. 2 seed this year has a time of 26.43, Smith should be a shoo-in for gold.

But Smith, who won her third straight city championship in the 200 meters last Tuesday with a time of 26 seconds flat, has been known to get nervous at big meets outside the City League, and that's why she hopes throwing the javelin will help her relax.

“That will help me get loose and ready to run my race,” said Smith, who is seeded 11th in the javelin.

Two years ago in the Division 2 state meet, Smith finished third in the 200-meter preliminaries with a time of 26.91 before ending up fifth in the final with a 27.14.
Last year, she missed states because of an injury.

Smith will also anchor South Boston’s city champion 4x100 relay team Sunday. The team, which also features Marika Thompson, Sirania Reid, and Joclyn Harris, is seeded second with a time of 51.42.

Smith’s ascent in three years of high school track and field is remarkable not just for how far she has come, but that she did so with virtually no training. Smith, who emigrated from Jamaica in middle school, doesn’t run in the winter because she plays basketball. And she doesn’t get much one-on-one time with South Boston coach James de Mello during the spring season because he coaches both boys and girls track and doesn’t have an assistant.

The spring season is also relatively short, de Mello notes, when you factor in the lousy weather. Nevertheless, he calls Smith an “elite” runner.

“We barely had any good days, and she’s perfect at that level and she basically has very little track training," he said. "This is my third year with her and I only get her a couple of months."

This is also her last year with de Mello, who after 25 years is retiring from coaching. Asked if that worries her, Smith said, “It does, because I want to be with him my senior year, too, but that’s not going to happen. Hopefully my new coach is like him or somewhat like him.”

Both coach and pupil are cherishing the last days leading up to the state meet -- and the All-State meet June 1 -- because this is their only chance to work almost exclusively one-on-one.

“The reason I think she has so much potential is she has had very little training in track,” de Mello said. “You should be training all year to be as good as she is and she’s that good with just couple months of work.

“If she trained all year round, she’d have no bounds. She could really make it happen for herself.”

Another thing that has helped Smith is running with the South Boston boys team in practice.

“I can beat 99 percent of the boys,” she said. That doesn't count senior Bless Amedoadzi, who finished second in the city championships in the 100 meters with a time of 11.2. He also helped the boys' 4x100 meter team win the city championship.

“It helped me push myself," said Smith, "because the guys are a lot faster -- well, not a lot faster, but they are faster -- so it makes me want to run like them or faster. So it makes me want to push myself."

Amedoadzi said Smith pushes him, as well, because he doesn’t want to lose to a girl. But he doesn’t think that he makes her better; she does that all on her own, he said.

“I just feel like she had it in her, but Coach always wants me to run hard in practice, so I push her and make her better,” said Amedoadzi. “She makes me run harder in practice because she’s catching up to me.

“She got potential. She really keeps going and she never gives up.”

With a GPA around 3.4, Smith said she’s not going to give up until she gets a college scholarship and maybe even a chance to run in the Olympics.

“My goal for track is to run in the Olympics one day, so I’m hoping to improve my high school year for college,” she said. “I’m right there and ready to run faster and get there.”

Justin A. Rice covers Boston Public school athletics. He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.

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Several reporters, editors and correspondents contribute updates, news and features to the BPS Sports Blog:
  • Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
  • Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at butler.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.
Also expect updates from Boston.com High School sports editor Zuri Berry and the Globe staff.