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Saturday, Nov 17, 2018
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Former Freedom star begins his first year as a full-time professional

TAMPA - TAMPA As Calvin Smith II looked out at the asphalt track he once trained and raced on, it seemed to him his high school career at Freedom was a lifetime ago. So much has happened since he graduated Freedom High in 2006, the same year he and teammate Mikese Morse led the Patriots to second place at the Class 3A state finals -- and just one point from winning the championship. "It does seem like forever ago," Smith said. "They've changed up a few things -- they've painted some new lines on the track -- but it's pretty much the same asphalt." When he left here five year ago, Smith said he was just hoping to "set an example, make some history and go on to college to see what I could do at that level." But following his University of Florida career, Smith has accomplished so much, Freedom athletic director Eli Thomas and track coach Eric Smith were so impressed, they decided to retire Smith's track jersey.
Smith's collegiate career for the Gators included a school record 18 all-American titles, a NCAA national outdoor title in the 4x100-meter relay, Southeastern Conference outdoor championships in the 400 and 4x100, SEC Male Runner of Year in 2009, SEC Freshman of the Year in 2007 and, as only a sophomore in 2008, a spot on the U.S. Olympic relay pool in the 4x400, which earned him a ticket to the Beijing Games as an alternate. As he heads into his first year as a full-time professional, Smith was honored Thursday night at Freedom with a ceremony during the Patriots' three-way meet with Middleton and Chamberlain. With his father, former 100-meter world record holder and Olympic gold medalist Calvin Smith in attendance, the younger Smith was awarded a plaque signifying the retiring of his high school jersey. More importantly, in the Freedom gymnasium will now hang a large, framed display with Smith's original jersey -- No. 22 -- a relay baton and two photos of him. One photo shows Smith winning the 400 at the district meet his senior year. The other picture is of Smith in competition for the University of Florida. Smith made the trip down from Gainesville, where he is about to finish his degree in sociology. He is still training under longtime Gators coach Mike Holloway, who was recently named as an assistant for the 2012 U.S. Olympic men's track quad. Smith says training as a professional is similar to that as collegian. Difference is, he's not running as many meet or events.

"As a professional, I'll be more focused on one or two events and hopefully, less tired," said Smith, who is running for adidas and is represented by former Olympic hurdler Tonie Campbell. "That's the hardest thing about college -- all the meets, the heats and events." This weekend marks the start of one of Smith's first big goals as a pro: The USA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. The opening round of the men's 400 is Saturday and finals are Sunday. A live webcast of the meet can be found on the web site www.usatf.org Smith's goal for the U.S. indoor finals is a top-three showing. After this meet, he says he will likely open his outdoor season at the Florida Relays, April 1-2 in Gainesville. It's a world championship year, meaning the top finishers of USA outdoor nationals will earn spots on the U.S. world squad. And that's where Smith hopes to escape relay pool status and earn an individual spot in that all-important meet, Aug. 27-Sept. 4 in Daegu, South Korea. With a 400 personal best of 44.81, Smith certainly has the potential to reach the world finals and, next year, the London Olympic Games. One of the big differences between professional and collegiate runners, says Smith's father, is running close to elite marks consistently at key meets -- and staying healthy. "He (Calvin II) is still learning the event," said his father. "With time, he will start to master it and I think now that he's a professional and nearly done with school, he will have the time to focus on it." Since he's still in Gainesville training, Smith says it's sometimes easy to forget he is a professional now. But considering he competes in a sport where the clock is everything, he knows time is moving on even faster than he is. "It (his college career) went by pretty fast -- especially my last year because every meet, I knew that was one less meet I had left in college," Smith said. "But I'm looking forward to the next stage of my career, seeing what I can do as a professional without worrying about all the things I did while I was in school and running for a team."
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