Senior runner becomes first male individual winner for school since 1989

Senior Ben Smith won the individual race at the last cross country conference on Oct. 25, which marked an accomplishment for Smith as the first male winner from Marshall since 1989.

The conference took place at the Burke Lake Park and involved seven local high schools, including Thomas Jefferson and Justice.

“[Winning] is kind of crazy because when I came as a freshman, we had a lot of really good runners and to be on that level is a little surreal,” Smith said.

Smith, the boys’ cross country team captain, has been a runner since his freshman year.

“The best part of being a team leader is when you see the success of your team,” Smith said. “Being able to lead my team to win [the district] is a really special experience to have.”

Senior and cross country runner Matthew Capuano-Rizzo said Smith’s devotion to the sport motivated him to make the team for the conference at Burke Lake Park.

“Ben is one of the most dedicated runners I’ve ever seen,” Capuano-Rizzo said. “He’s one of the reasons I kept running and why I tried to be on the tenth spot this year, so that I could go to the conference.”

Capuano-Rizzo said Smith’s performance was his best of the year, and that his victory galvanized his team throughout the rest of the meet.

“Ben had a tough season this year, but he put everything he had in that race and we were so proud of him,” Capuano-Rizzo said. “We were screaming so much when he won […] That’s definitely the best race he’s had this season.”

Smith said the season was tough for him because of the meet cancellations due to inclement weather, as well as personal struggles that prevented him from making time for running.

“So many meets were cancelled due to bad weather and I’ve had a hard time being able to run with my team,” Smith said. “That’s why having the support of my team has been important and that’s -omething I definitely used during the race […] I knew they wanted me to be successful.”

Both the boys’ and the girls’ cross country teams won the titles of National Districts Champions.

Senior Natalie Bardach, who won the female individual race, said she was proud of Smith’s victory.

“We’ve both been working really hard this whole season, and it felt great [to win],” Bardach said. “Ben’s an amazing team captain, and he always makes things fun while still having people respect him.”

Capuano-Rizzo said he values Smith not only as a team captain, but also as a friend.

“Running is hard and physically degrading, but Ben always encouraged us to put everything we had into it,” Capuano-Rizzo said. “He makes jokes and is very supportive of his teammates. He’s just an overall wonderful person, and I love being around him.”

Allthough he has no long-term goals regarding running, Smith said running is an activity he wishes to pursue in college.

“Running will definitely be something I’ll do in college, but I don’t know exactly what form it will take,” Smith said.

The boys’ and girls’ teams proceeded to their final 6A state championship on Nov. 10, with boys placing sixth. This team victory, along with that of the final individual race on Oct. 25 successfully concluded Smith’s season as a cross country runner with the Marshall team.