Pottstown’s Smallwood ends Trojans career with gold, school record 800 – PA Prep Live
It’s a record of its own.
And an achievement more than worthy of the rich heritage of the athletic team for which he competed.
Darius Smallwood capped his school athletic career in Pottstown by climbing the highest peaks this spring. The senior Trojan horse rose to the top step of the podium at the University of Shippensburg after winning the PIAA Class AAA 800 meters a month ago …
It was a encore performance for Smallwood, who was named The Mercury’s 2020 Men’s Cross Country Rider of the Year last fall. And his record-breaking run put Darius in the company of a Pottstown middle distance star of nearly half a century earlier.
Mercury All-Area: Men’s Track and Field Teams 2021
His standard in the 800-meter race – a time of 1: 51.91 that earned Smallwood his PIAA gold medal – has been compared to the 880-yard mark owned by Bruce Carter. A runner at Pottstown during the 1962-63 seasons, Carter’s best time in the 880 was 1: 52.6, over half a second behind Darius’ record, and congratulated him in a meeting Sunday after the States.
“He said, ‘You didn’t just beat my record, you destroyed it,'” Smallwood recalls.
He and Carter are linked by more than just their place on the Pottstown charts. Darius ‘mother (Stacy Steele) and Carter’s daughter (Sheree Carter) were teammates on the Pottstown Girls’ Track and Field Team while in school.
The Smallwood State Championship was softened by a not-so-sweet outing when they met District 1 a week earlier in Coatesville. The number one seed in the event, he finished third behind Eric Albright of Garnet Valley (1: 53.57) and Holden Emery of Central Bucks East (1: 55.05) with his own time of 1: 55.05.
“It gave me a lesson… taught me a lot,” he said. “After the districts, I knew I had to take the lead and run my race. I was super serious, I went there for everything.
“It was a learning experience for him,” added Pottstown head coach Justin Gibbs. “Darius knew he had to race (in the US).”
He did exactly that, taking the lead at the start and not giving in all the way. His record time gave Darius the satisfaction of edging out Emery (1: 53.26) and Albright (1: 53.85), second and fourth respectively around third place Cedar Crest’s Tommy Bildheiser (1: 53.73) .
“My plan was to leave no one in front of me,” he said. “I listened to the breathing and the footsteps, I saw them come up to my shoulder.
“The last 100, I had a big gap. I ran so that no one could pass me. It was a good pace for me.
“The first round he was perfectly fine,” added Gibbs. “The last 200 he got a 100% kick.”
His heightened perspective on the state meeting venue also helped push Smallwood to greatness.
“It was different. Everyone’s good,” he said. “I knew I had to be up to it. It pushed me.
He got a taste for chasing records when Pottstown PAC Frontier Division met twice with neighboring rival Pottsgrove. With his pursuit of the program record (1: 52.6) announced over the sound system, and his teammates and fans cheering him on, Darius had a solid record run.
He came right in close, with a time of 1: 52.79. But the possibility of setting a record was confirmed at that point, as was his determination to make the most of competitive opportunities this spring.
“There weren’t a lot of invitations,” Smallwood said. “I just went 100%, everything. I mostly set personal bests in every race.
“The only time he changed his routine was in the districts,” added Gibbs. “In training for the season, the 800 was his main focus. “
He also ran the 300 intermediate hurdles and the anchor stage as part of the 4 × 400 relay team.
“It helped the 300 was the first event,” he noted. “It gave me a lot of time to rest and it warmed up.”
Looking to compete on track at the college level, Smallwood had two high profile competitions on its summer schedule. He competed in the Garden State Track Club’s East Coast Championship June 23-24 and the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation’s National Outdoor Track and Field Meeting June 30-July 3 in Oregon.
In the East Coast Championship, Smallwood put in a strong performance in the 800, placing fourth in 1: 51.96. The race was won by Jeremy Hernandez of Hoboken (NJ) in 1: 50.94, followed by Myles Plummer of Scotch Plains (NJ) and Matthew Kraus of Warminster (Pa.).
“He just ran in the second round of the Olympic Development Run,” his mother said from the competition. “He ran another 1: 51.9, placing first in his race and fourth overall.
“We thought he was running in the high school boys’ race, and they pushed him in that race, so he didn’t have a lot of time to warm up. Maybe 10 minutes.
Smallwood went on to win national honors at the Outdoor Nationals with a time of 1: 52.55 in the 800-meter race that placed him sixth in the country.
Smallwood was part of a tight 4-7 squad in the event, led by Jake Orr of Draper, Utah (1: 50.92), Mike Brown of Novi, Mich. (1: 50.95) and Adam Mason of Manvel, Texas. (1: 51.60). Just 0.29 seconds separated Austin Klingler, fourth in West Jordan, Utah (1: 52.45) and Reed Cherry, seventh in Littleton, Mass. (1: 52.74).
Smallwood was less than a tenth of a second behind fifth Darius Kipyego of Warwick, RI (1: 52.46).
Penn State is on Smallwood’s shortlist of college choices. He would like to run on indoor and outdoor tracks for the Nittany Lions.
For his part, Gibbs believes Smallwood can maintain his level of achievement at the college level.
“Darius knew what to do to be an 800 runner,” he said. “He’s a special runner. He will do whatever you ask him to do.
“He gave 100% and got a gold medal for it.”