Laray Smith’s reputation is rapidly growing. Already regarded as one of the area’s top running backs, the rising senior at Xaverian is becoming known in track and field circles, as well.
On Sunday afternoon at sweltering Mitchel Athletic Complex, Region I learned what New York City has already figured out: Laray Smith is fast. Very fast.
Smith pulled a Michael Johnson, winning both the 200 and 400 meters at the Region I Junior Olympic qualifiers. Ironically, it was on the same track Johnson, the only man to claim gold in the 200 and 400 in the same Olympic Games, helped set a world record in the 4 x 400 relay at the 1998 Goodwill Games.
Smith only needed a top-five finish to quality for the national competition at Morgan State University in Baltimore later this month, but the Staten Island native had no interest in letting up.
“It wasn’t the best times, but I came to win,” Smith said.
Smith took first in the 400 in 48.38 and quickly turned around to win the 200 in 22.27. The times weren’t personal bests, but still impressive considering the grueling nature of the event – the races were back-to-back – as well as the oppressive heat.
“Running in this weather is difficult because the sun just drains all your energy and you’re sweating a lot,” said Smith, who didn’t want to use the weather conditions as an excuse. “I knew I still had to run hard. I went all out.”
Smith credits his coach, Walt Smith (no relation) of Brooklyn-based Zenith Velocity, with improving his time in a short period of training. Laray, who also pulled off an impressive double at the Mayor’s Cup in April by winning the 100 (10.73) and the 200 (21.64), has been running track for about three years, but he’s just become serious this year.
“He understands it now and once he understands it even better, he’s going to be a problem for everybody,” Walt said. “He has the ability to run in college. He ran a 10.4 (in the 100) and he was a junior. We can drop that down to about a 10.3 or a 10.2 next year. With enough time, he’s 21.1 ready (in the 200).”
Walt said Laray’s physical strength is what sets him apart from many other runners and now that Laray is getting the technique down with certain races, he’s cut his PR times drastically. When his 100 time went from 10.7 to 10.43 and his 200 reduced from 21.6 to 21.4, some of the elite college football programs began to take notice.
“When I ran the 10.43, schools became more interested,” Laray said. “Oregon really liked me a lot. I’m going to keep talking to them.”
A year ago, UConn and Syracuse were the only schools that had Laray, who rushed for 993 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, on their radar. Now, he also has Oregon, West Virginia and Tennessee among his top five.
There’s also a possibility that Laray can balance both sports on the next level, which could make him a more interesting option for some of the larger schools on his list, especially when it comes to scholarship money.
“I want to try to do both in college because I feel like I have the opportunity to make it far in both sports,” he said. “I might as well try.”
As for a timetable for a decision, Laray said he’s reaching the finish line. While Oregon and West Virginia haven’t formally offered him a scholarship, Laray is confident it’s a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if.’
“I’m positive it’s going to be there,” he said.
Laray, who was on the cover of MSG Varsity The Magazine in the fall, said he plans to announce his commitment exclusively on MSG Varsity next month.
“I can’t wait to commit. I feel like time went by so fast,” Laray said. “Time flies.”
So does Laray Smith.
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