(On Saturday, at the Coaching Legends Classic cross country meet, Saline cross country coach Mike Smith as the honoree. The following is the script read during Smith's honoring.)
Coach (Mike) Smith excelled as a multi-sport athlete at Napoleon High School. Known as a runner, he also filled Napoleon’s basketball hoops…of course this is before the 3 point shot and when the slam dunk was prohibited. He was a stalwart middle distance runner for the University of Michigan, where he received his bachelor’s degree in English.
Coach Smith started his career as the cross country and track coach at Grass Lake High School where he worked for 5 years. He began impacting student athletes at Saline in 1977 as a teacher and coach. He is now in his 35th year as the coach of the Hornets.
Coach has retired from the Saline High English and history classrooms, but the positive impact we now experience on his cross country team was also present inside the school building. One of his English and history AP students says “"Mr. Smith was a fantastic teacher. Whether the subject was English or U.S. history, he engaged his students, challenged them, and got them to grow and learn. Mr. Smith's expertise at getting his students interested in learning and exploring each and every topic was what set him apart from other educators."
Up until the mid-90’s Coach Smith worked with both the girls’ and boys’ cross country programs. In 1994 the boys’ and girls’ teams were separated, and he became the head coach for the girls’ program.
Under Coach Smith’s leadership, the Saline girls’ team has grown and flourished. His program is now the largest cross country team in the state with 136 competitors.
A strength that Coach possesses is planning and administration. Because of the number of athletes in the program, Coach has up to 10 assistants that he coordinates to make this program go. He readily admits that assistants like “Mama J” Susan Jones, Matt Hagood, Mark Bersuder and Chuck Lesch are major reasons for the team’s success.
Over the years, Saline has been successful at the local, regional, and state level. The Hornets have won 15 consecutive conference championships and 9 consecutive Regional championships. And at the state level, Saline has placed in the top 10 at the State Meet for 10 straight years, and they were the Division I State Champions in 2009, Coach Smith’s most memorable coaching moment.
He has coached a number of All State runners – most recently Alex Leptich and Kate Carter. And Grand Valley graduate Eileen Creutz was a two-time state champion for the Hornets in 2004 and 2005.
Coach Smith has been nominated and selected as the Division I Coach of the Year a number of times, and he was elected into the MITCA Cross Country Coaches’ Hall of Fame in 2009.
Rob White, Saline’s Athletic Director says it best.
“Mike Smith represents what interscholastic athletics should be about: hard work, dedication, focus on academics, and commitment to a team. But more importantly, coach Smith has formed life-long, positive relationships. These positive relationships have changed and impacted the lives of countless student athletes. He has set the standard of what it means to be a coach in Saline – A true legend.”
Mr. White, you are correct. His student athletes, past and present, will totally agree with you.
Please join me in congratulating Saline Hornets Coaching Legend Mike Smith!