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James Smith has a smile that can light up a room, but when it's race time his main focuses is winning the race. Photo by Jason Lewis
James Smith hit the ground running, winning the very first race of his career, and has been one of the nations leaders for his age group. Photo by Jason Lewis
Smith is also a standout running back for the Baldwin HIlls Bruins. At halftime of a UCLA game at the Rose Bowl, Baldwin HIlls played in an exhibition game, where Smith scored a 50 yard touchdown. After turning the corner on sweep, none of the defenders had a chance to catch him. Photo by Jason Lewis
By Jason LewisSentinel Sports Editor
At first glance 8-year-old James Smith looks like any other kid. Great smile, full of life, bouncing all over the place. The kid can hardly stand still. But get him on the track and his demeanor changes. You can see the intensity in his eyes. When he starts to run your first response will be, "Whoa, that kid is fast!"
Smith may be a little guy with a fun loving spirit, but when it's "Go-time" he can generate a lot of power that propels his body down the track at extremely fast speeds for an 8-year-old.
This is Smith's first year running track, and he's enjoying his newfound abilities already. He runs the 100 and 200 meter dashes, is on the 4x100 and 4x400 meter relays, and he performs the Long Jump for the L.A. Jets.
Smith currently holds the Jets sub bantam record in the Long Jump with a leap of 3.98 meters (nearly 12 feet) and he has been nationally ranked all season. He was No. 1 in the nation in the 100-meter dash until recently, with a time of 14.00 seconds. Currently he is No. 2 in the nation out of 3,444 children in his division.
Smith is fourth in the nation in the long jump out of 1,716 children, and sixth out of 3,079 in the 200-meter dash.
Smith's mother, LeNay Maull, had no idea that her son was so fast, and only put him in track so he could condition for his first year of playing tackle football, which she was very reluctant for him to play.
"He wants to play football, but I didn't want him to play football," Maull said, in a laughing but very concerned voice.
Maull finally gave in and Smith will be playing for the Baldwin Hills Bruins in the fall. But for now, Smith will continue to dominate opponents on the track before he can give football a try.
Smith started to show his great speed while at practice with the Jets. Maull said that he would always be one of the leaders of his group, and then he won his very first race at his first track meet, making his mother extremely proud.
"As a mother I can see that my child has something in him that he can use, and maybe hopefully it can get him to college and save me some money," Maull said. "I'm extremely proud of him, and sometimes I can get a little emotional."
Smith has the athletic genes to take him far. His father Shabaka Smith, who attended Crenshaw High School, played football at Oregon, and he still plays semi pro football. Smith also has the coaching at the L.A. Jets to take him far. He said that his favorite coach is Lamar Kirk, and he thinks highly of Trey Bellows. Smith also said that Obea Moore, who holds many Jets records, said that if Smith worked hard, that he could break many of Moore's records.
At this early age Smith looks like he could have the talent to take him to college and beyond, but athletics does not look like it will be his only avenue. He has only completed the second grade, but he is already excelling academically at Transfiguration elementary school. He has received excellent marks in language, spelling, social studies, and not surprisingly, physical education. He received certificates of excellence for all of those subjects, as well as a certificate for an honorable mention.
Smith is definitely on the right track at a very early age.