Oct. 15, 2002
Former Westland high school track coach Jeff Clark, who now coaches track and field at Grove City High School, has a picture of a girl standing next to a high jump pit with the bar set at 5 feet, 9 inches. The girl is a mere 5-foot-4. For a female to jump over this height in high school would be a feat in itself, but for Ohio State senior high jumper Tami Smith, clearing 5-9 is just another day at the office for this over achiever.
Smith first became interested in track in the sixth grade and began competiting in the seventh grade.
“I actually started out strictly as a sprinter,” Smith said. “At the district track meet, I was kind of fooling around with my friends and while in my warm-up outfit, I jumped over the bar and an official at the meet asked me, ‘Young lady, why didn’t you jump today?’ I told him that I was not a jumper and that I was sprinter. The official told me that if I had jumped today I would have won the district title.”
Since that fateful day at the district meet, Smith began her pursuit of high jump records. She won the AAU National Championships in Baton Rouge, La. She made four trips to the Ohio state track and field championships. She placed first in the high jump at the Big Ten Championships three years in a row, and earned named to the All-America honors each of the last two years.
Since coming to Ohio State, Smith has been coached by Jack Warner, who is in his 10th season this year with the Buckeyes.
“What I like most about Jack is that we both understand each other,” Smith said. “He knows when to work me hard and he knows when not to.”
“Tami is just a great student-athlete,” Warner said. “She has done everything I have ever asked her to do. She has done very well academically, and most of all, she leads by example.
As Smith teams up with Warner for a final time this winter and spring, she has her sights set on winning the national championship in the high jump.
“I think Tami realized this past season that in order to compete at the national level you have to be able to consistently go above the 6-foot mark,” Warner said. “We hope to build on the success of last season and compete for a national title in the high jump.”
Despite her numerous complements from teachers, coaches and fellow student-athletes, Smith keeps things in perspective by not getting overconfident.
“I know I’m not the best at what I do, but I always try to be the best,” Smith said. “I just like to sit back, take things as they come to me and don’t blow things out of proportion. I am just happy with what I’m doing.”
“Tami always put the team ahead of her,” Clark said. “She never tried to take over the spotlight, even when she had a great day. Tami always got along well with her teammates very well.”
Smith got along with her teammates so well, that at a high school track banquet when her name was announced, she was the only girl on the team to receive a standing ovation.
“When Tami first started high jumping in high school, we always did three things before a Saturday meet,” Clark said. “We made three goals one for herself, one for the competition and one for the team. But what we stressed most to her, was that she had fun.”
Smith still has fun with track but takes a more serious approach towards track then in the past.
“I’m still having fun,” Smith said. “I approach it as more a job, and although it’s tough, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Smith has an attitude of striving towards being the best into the classroom. As journalism and communications major, she has been a three-time Ohio State Scholar-Athlete. Smith is active member of the Public Relations Student Society of America, (PRSSA) which meets twice a month giving communication students the opportunity to learn from networking professionals that come in to talk to the group. PRSSA also arranges field trips, allowing students of PRSSA to learn more about the field of communications.
“I have really enjoyed being a member,” Smith said. “I think it has really helped me a lot with my career.”
Smith also serves as the voice of the Ohio State Diversity Bulletin on WSNZ (103.1 FM), informing the Columbus community of what is taking place at Ohio State on a weekly basis. The commercials showcase diversity issues on campus ranging from new faculty members to Hispanic awareness, acting as a medium between campus and both the community and the student community.
“Deciding on what I wanted to do prior to coming to college was never an issue for me,” said Smith. “Ever since middle school, I have had an interest in communications. There was never a period of uncertainty which has allowed me to get a head start in my career.”
Through her achievements in track and in academics, Smith always remembers her the love and support she received from her parents. Smith attributes a lot her success to her parents and still remains in close contact with both her mother and father.
“Whenever I need advice they are always there for me,” Smith said. “My mom is one of my best friends I can talk to her about anything and although my dad lives in St. Louis (,Mo.), we still remain very and close.”
“Track meets for the Smith family always were always an event,” Clark said. “For every Saturday meet in high school, Tami would always have a large cheering section from her family. They always supported her in everything she did.”
After graduation Smith plans to move Atlanta, Ga., or Los Angeles, Calif., and begin her career in communications, focusing on the entertainment aspect. As for her future in track, Smith says she will continue to pursue her track career if the right opportunity comes along.
“Continuing my career in track would be difficult, but if the right opportunity came along and if continued to improve I would defiantly have to consider it,” Smith said.