GERMANTOWN, TN (WMC) - Eighteen-year-old Memphian Mariah Smith is training for the 2020 Tokyo Games. But the quiet-natured track standout isn’t just an exceptional sprinter. She’s also going the distance off the track.
“When the gun goes off, it’s just adrenaline,” she said. “You have to keep your training in mind and just believe in your training.”
Smith’s coach, Marwan Banks, says she has a gait like a gazelle.
“You’ll see that she extends out a lot more than normal and it gives her a lot of ground coverage, and with more coverage there’s more distance you’re covering in every step,” said Banks, head coach of the Germantown High School track team. “This is why she’s so tough, because I make her race boys.”
Banks decided Smith needed a challenge.
“I ended up taking her away from running with just the girls and actually also running her with better guys,” said Banks. “That actually gives her something to fight for, and as long as she has something to fight for I think she’s going to improve because she doesn’t like to lose.”
Banks is the one who gave Smith her nickname, “the silent assassin.”
“She doesn’t talk a lot, and when you look at her you’ll probably underestimate her,” said Banks. “But as soon as she gets to running you’ll know what’s going on. You’re going to know exactly what’s going on.”
In less than three years at Germantown High, Smith has broken six school records. The 5-foot-11 team captain has four state medals under her belt.
Smith’s athleticism has attracted the attention of 15 colleges and universities, even Ivy Leagues, but track wasn’t always on her radar.
“In middle school, my friends forced me to try out for the middle school team, and I was the only one who made it out of all my friends and all the sixth-grade girls,” said Smith.
She’s been focusing her attention on distance races until just last year.
“My AAU coach forced me to go down because he knew I was a sprinter, and turns out he was right,” said Smith.
She’s fine-tuning her talent and motivated to make Team USA.
“I just love getting better and at competitions, I love the adrenaline and I just love competition,” said Smith. “I’m very competitive so I go out every day and try my best.”
Her parents couldn’t be more proud.
“She’s running for Georgia State, they gave her a full ride,” said her mother, Marion Medford-Smith.
Medford-Smith points out that her daughter is just as good at academics as she is on the track.
“She’s very competitive, she’s going to do whatever it takes to be the best,” said Medford-Smith.
Smith is an honor roll student on track to graduate from the International Baccalaureate program where she’ll start college as a sophomore when she passes her final test.
Her coach says she hasn’t even reached her full potential yet.
“She’s blooming, but she hasn’t bloomed yet,” said Banks. “You still have a lot more to see out of this child.”
Smith graduates in May and starts college in the fall. The 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in track and field are slated for June 19 through 28, 2020.