Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 44
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
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IN THE FAST LANE: Princeton High star distance runner Zaid Smart competes in a track meet last spring. Last Friday, senior Smart took seventh in the individual standings at the Mercer County Cross Country Championship as he continued his rise from the middle of the pack last fall to the PHS frontrunner. Smart’s heroics helped the Little Tigers finish third in the team standings at the county meet behind champion WW/P-S and runner-up WW/P-N.

Sparked by Smart’s Emergence as a Frontrunner, PHS Boys’ Cross Country Takes 3rd at Counties

Bill Alden

It is a sign of how far Zaid Smart has come as a runner that he wasn’t thrilled with his seventh-place finish last Friday in the Mercer County Cross Country Championship.

“I was happy with my time,” said Princeton High senior star Smart. “I ran well but I don’t compete well.”

Smart’s disappointment centered on his failure to catch the WW/P-S pack that saw Pirate runners take second and fourth through sixth as they won the team title.

“I got a little hotheaded when I saw they were in front of me, I thought maybe I could catch them,” recalled Smart, who covered the 3.1 mile course at Washington Crossing Park in 16:11 in helping PHS finish third in the team standings behind champion WW/P-S and runner-up WW/P-N.

“When I didn’t, I was real disappointed. I could hear them saying the Princeton dude is right there. It made me angry that I couldn’t catch them.”

Smart does take pride in his rise from the middle of the pack runner in the beginning of his junior year to the PHS frontrunner.

“That still makes me happy; I am still really excited about that,” said Smart, who has also emerged as a star on the track at the 1,600 and 3,200. “I plan to do even better in track season to keep on getting faster.”

In assessing his rise up the running ladder, Smart said that an eye-opening performance last fall led to his transformation.

“I ran one race faster last year than I usually did and I started thinking can I keep on going and going,” explained Smart, who plans to keep running at the college level and is in the recruiting process.

Last year, I was trying to discover what kind of runner I was and how fast I could really go. Right now I am not done discovering because I feel there is still room for improvement.”

Smart’s increased commitment to the sport is reflected in his more intense training regimen.

“I was doing 40-50 miles a week in beginning of season,” said Smart. “As the season goes on, we do less; now we are at 35 or 40. In the past, I was running nowhere near as hard as I do now.”

PHS head coach John Woodside liked the hard effort he got from his runners at the county meet.

“I feel good about the way we ran,” said Woodside, who got a 10th-place finish from senior Aaron Thomas with sophomore Will Flemer taking 21st, freshman Kevin Vahdat coming in 25th, and junior Matt Hoffman placing 30th.

“The history of this team in the last few years in these big meets has been that they just love it. They get up for it. They run big and they did today. If you look at the times we ran and the way we competed, this was the best my team has done in any meet that I can remember. I am very, very proud of them.”

While Smart may have thought he could have competed better, Woodside was more than proud of the gutsy effort he got from his senior standout.

“I thought he was a touch off although not much,” said Woodside. “He had been sick earlier this week, he was in bed on Wednesday and didn’t come to school. I was very worried. He came to school yesterday and we had him do a very light workout. He is such a competitor; he doesn’t want to give in to anybody. I think you will see in the next couple of weeks, he can run even better than he did today.”

The rest of the PHS pack didn’t give in either. “Aaron had a very nice day; the best day he has had this year,” asserted Woodside.

“He still needs to get the confidence to get out a little bit harder and closer to the front in the beginning. Our third man man was Will Flemer and he ran a personal record at around 17:05, Our fourth guy was a freshman, Kevin Vahdat. He’s run great all year and today was his best race ever. Our fifth man was Matt Hoffman, a veteran guy who had the best race of his career.”

Woodside is hoping for some more good racing as his team enters state competition.

“They are all getting ready; we are all gearing up for the next meet,” said Woodside. “We have the sectionals next week and the states the week after that. Hopefully, we are heading in the right direction.”

Smart, for his part, believes PHS could be heading for some big things over the season’s homestretch.

“We are looking forward to it and looking to do well,” said Smart. “We are hoping to get to the Meet of Champs this year.”

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