By Hal Goodwin
It’s a humbling compliment when a coach expresses such praise and admiration for an athlete he’s watched develop over a collegiate career.
However, after meeting John Smith for the first time, it doesn’t take long to see why track and field and cross-country Head Coach Rob Pasquariello and Assistant Coach Bob Hamer speak so highly of him.
“John is a model student athlete,” Hamer said. “He’s willing to sacrifice his own personal gain for the good of the team, which is something you look for in a leader and in a student here on campus.”
Smith is a student athlete in his senior year, and has aspirations of teaching high school history upon graduating. So that means that this semester, he must student teach on top of an already rigorous workout schedule.
“You go from being in class two to three hours a day to being in class seven hours a day and you’re on your feet all day long,” Hamer said. “We’ve eliminated double workouts, and we do all our workouts in single sessions, which requires a little more difficulty from his standpoint because we’re out there longer in a single session, but he’s managed it very well and has had tremendous success with it.”
Handling all of these responsibilities takes a lot of time management, but couple that with an incredible work ethic and you’ve got a recipe for success.
“You can’t get to the levels that he’s reached without having a great work ethic,” Pasquariello said. “We know what we’re going to get from John every week and that’s his absolute best effort every time out, and that’s really comforting as a coach and as a teammate to know that.”
His coaches were correct when they described him as modest, but he’ll admit that the tremendous workload he is faced with is hard, to say the least.
“It’s getting a little bit tougher now because I’m starting to take over the classes,” Smith said. “I’m grading papers now and I have to be prepared with lessons and things to do.”
However, for Smith and the rest of the cross-country runners who also run track, the preparation never ends. For those who are part of both the indoor and outdoor teams, the season takes up nearly the entire year.
“John runs cross-country, and all of our cross-country kids start the third week of August and that’s pretty much the beginning of their competitive season,” Pasquariello said. “For a runner like John, who has aspirations of making the NCAA regional meet, it could go till the end of May. With all our track kids and particularly the distance runners it’s a long season.”
Upon hearing all of the compliments that Smith’s coaches had to say about him, his modesty went on display once again. He emphasized the importance of what the team is able to accomplish as a whole, not just now, but in the future.
He stressed his desire for the team to keep progressing after finishing 14th in the regional meet this year, to a future top-10 mark.
“One thing I’d like to see them do is continue to work better to make the cross-country team reach that level,” Smith said. “We started moving up from my freshman year until now, so hopefully over the next four years, with the talented freshmen we have now, they’ll make that move into the top 10.”
As for Smith’s future, his coaches don’t seem to think he’ll have any problems becoming successful in whatever he does. They have no reason to believe otherwise having seen what he’s accomplished over his time at Rider.
“The four years he’s been here he’s been the guy,” Hamer said. “John is a great kid. I think he does a great job in the classroom; he does a great job with the kids and I think down the road he’s going to be successful in whatever he does.”