In 2016, life handed Niwot distance runner Maggie Smith a big lemon in the form of an injury that kept her out of competitive racing for all but a few weeks of her sophomore year.
“It was a big emotional struggle for me because I love running,” said the junior, who took up the sport at Boulder Country Day in first grade. “I realized when it was taken away that it was my personality and my identity.”
Fast forward to 2017, and Smith has turned that lemon into lemonade. After several months of rest and rehab, Smith finally reclaimed her spot among the region’s fastest girls. On Oct. 19, Smith took fourth at the Class 4A Region 3 race at Lyons H.S. with a time of 19:27, more than 45 seconds faster than her previous Regional time (20:14). At this year’s Class 4A state championships in Colorado Springs, she crossed the finish line in 19:24, about 70 seconds faster than her 2015 time of 20:35.
“I’ve learned that adversity is the best education,” she said. “I’ve come back to be stronger, more thoughtful, and more mindful. I’ve become a student of the sport and learned how to cross-train. It’s proved to me how much I love it.”
During cross country season, Smith spends nearly 20 hours per week training with the team or on her own. In order to reduce the risk of re-injury, her weekly mileage is limited to 25-30 miles, but she supplements that with “pool-running.” All told, the junior is running or conditioning six days per week.
“She’s our leader,” Niwot head coach Kelly Christensen said his junior standout. “She has a level of intensity, whether she’s running at a hundred percent of her ability or not, that raises the bar for everyone else.”
Smith also sets a high bar in the classroom. As a top-ranked student in Niwot’s demanding IB program, she tackles her studies as intensively as she does the track.
“Academics are very important to me,” she said. “My family has taught me that grades come first and athletics second. So it’s been important to find the balance in my life for both of those things.”
In order to do that, Smith said she relies on healthy habits and discipline, which also bolsters her running.
“I make sure I get enough hours sleep,” she explained. “And time-management is really important. During the day, I make sure that any free time I have is spent doing homework, so I can get to bed at 9:30 every night, so I have the energy and my legs feel good for the workout the next day.”