SYRACUSE – Wawasee senior McKenzie Smith decided that running in Fort Wayne is a good thing.
After running at the New Haven Cross Country Semi-state on the campus of Purdue University Fort Wayne three different times, Smith chose to sign with the school and run on campus full-time for the cross country and track programs.
Smith was a three-time semi-state qualifier, as a sophomore with her Wawasee team, and then as a junior and senior as an individual. Smith leaves the Wawasee cross country program with the second-fastest time in its history – 19:39 – only trailing state champion Rachel Stichter in that category. Smith has also run five of the top 20 times in program history.
In cross country, Smith was a three-time All-Northern Lakes Conference performer. She was also a IATCCC All-State Honorable Mention for Class 3-A in 2018.
“It’s a great feeling knowing I’m the second-fastest runner in Wawasee history and that no one else really came close to Rachel’s records,” Smith said during her signing ceremony Tuesday afternoon at Wawasee. “I had set some goals for myself and the times just kind of came in me running as well as I could.”
In track, Smith has complied regional qualification in the 4×800 relay, 4×400 relay and the 800-meter dash, holding multiple top-10 program times along the way. Smith will continue on the track again this spring.
“Kenzie was definitely a leader by action,” stated Wawasee girls cross country coach Doug Slabaugh, who also coached Smith in track. “When asked to go do something, she would do it and do it well. It was fun seeing her grow, mature and develop over the years. I can remember a distinct workout in cross country her sophomore year during practice where things changed for her. We were doing 1,000-meter repeats and her and another girl got in an argument and Kenzie took off and never looked back. Kenzie did some special things in this program.”
Purdue University Fort Wayne, coached in both cross country and track by Ashley Botham, is Division I and a member of the Summit League. As a student at Wawasee, Smith is ranked 109th in her class of 247 with a 7.76 GPA (12-scale) and plans to study criminal justice at PFW.
“They got a hold of me during the semi-state at New Haven,” Smith said of picking PFW. “I chose them because it was close to home and when I went for an overnight visit, the team was really nice and their facility is really good. My junior year, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to run or not, but ended up having a good year and decided to stick with it. I just really like running and want to keep going. I had the opportunity to run at a college level and decided to take it.”