A WALK WITH A HAWK ... FEATURING: ACKEEM SMITH
April 19, 2012
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. - It's late in the day on a Tuesday afternoon inside the William P. Hytche Athletic Center. There is a light line of traffic that is roaming throughout the halls of the building, but for the most part it's relatively quiet.
A group begins to form around the outside of the training room because something unusual has caught the attention of one of the building's occupants. It begins with just one person, but in no time at all, a group has formed. Those in attendance have their eyes locked in on something on the far side of the gym.
It looks like a blur, but is soon found to be in the form of a human. The individual is bounding over hurdles with ease; almost as if it is his second nature.
It's acknowledged that the individual that everyone is watching is University of Maryland Eastern Shore track star, Ackeem Smith (St. Catherine, Jamaica).
Truth is, much like this low-pitched scene, he's provided a thunderous, yet quiet collegiate track career. Although the physical specimen in the gym may come off as soft-spoken to some, he prides himself in his ability to make others laugh.
"I'm a very jovial and goofy person if you get to know me," said Smith. "There is something about making others laugh that makes me feel like I did a good deed."
Whatever the case may be, his accolades on the track speak for themselves.
The St. Catherine, Jamaica product was named an All-American honorable mention honoree in 2011, when he placed 23rd in the 110m hurdles with a time of 14.23 at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. He broke the school record for UMES in the 60m hurdles, with a 7.81 time at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational earlier this year.
As if those were not already enough, Smith was distinguished as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion in the 60m hurdles for the most recent indoor track season. He also has several IC4A runner-up finishes and is a three-time C.R.I.F.T.A. games champion in the 110m hurdles.
In the 2011 outdoor year, Smith earned four first-place finishes, three of which were in the 110m hurdles. He posted a season-best time of 13.90 in the NCAA Preliminaries and joined three others in the 4x100m championship relay team at the Penn Relays.
To what does Smith attribute his success to?
"My mindset is what makes me different," said Smith. "Whatever I put my heart and mind to I strive to achieve it and cannot be denied."
There is no doubt that his hard work and God-given talent have brought him this far. Despite this, his biggest motivation in life is to make his family proud.
"It's the feelings I get in making my mother and little sister proud," said Smith. "They are my biggest motivations. I learned a lot from my grand-pops because he had the ability to lead without trying. He's my hero because he's held things in place when it seems like all hope is lost."
Smith, who grew up in Jamaica, made the trek to Princess Anne several years ago. The journey spanned close to 2,400 kilometers, but it's a trip that he is glad to have made.
"I immediately felt a connection with my teammates here," said Smith. "I had a chance to interact with a few others and I just really enjoyed it. The business program is really good here too."
Fast forward two years and the present sees Smith as a man on a mission.
In 2012, Smith has already qualified for the IC4A meet with an 8.01 finish in the 60m hurdles at the Navy Invitational, while posting season-bests in the 60m at two different races. He finished with a top-5 finish of 6.91 in the 60m at the Great Dane Classic, before besting it with a season-best 6.85 in the Armory Series Collegiate Meet. He most recently finished third (14.13) in the 110m hurdles at the Mason Spring Invitational.
When asked about what the key to success is, Smith referenced Ralph Waldo Emerson in "What lies behind me and what lies before me are simple matters compared to what lies within me".
Smith's ultimate goal is to run in the Olympics; a feat that everyone around UMES would love to see happen for this exceptional student-athlete. With several track seasons still left to go, it is an accomplishment still well within reason.
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