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Profile: Jessi Smith; What drives Bayard’s running sensation?
December 04, 2015 Frank Marquez and Hannah Schmall   

Read more by Frank Marquez and Hannah Schmall

Courtesy photo CAT FIGHT: Bayard Tigers’ top female runner Jessi Smith leads nemesis Mitchell Tigers’ Celeste Cardona at the Western Trails Conference Meet on Oct. 9 in Hemingford. Cardona finished the 5,000 meter race first with a time of 20:07, edging Smith by a mere 17 seconds.

When she was a young girl, Bayard standout athlete Jessi Smith accompanied her dad to football games. She was full of energy, often more than a handful.

“I was super hyper,” Smith said. “He’d yell at me to go run around the track during the football game. I guess that’s how I got my sports ideas. I was always the weird kid that always wanted to run.”

Smith made her first foray into organized sports early. She was about 8 years old when she started playing basketball at the community recreation center.

This past November as a high school senior, Smith, a 5-foot-4 multi-sport athlete for the Bayard Tigers was selected by The Wendy’s High School Heisman Program as a 2015 state finalist for her accomplishments in cross country and track.

According to the program website: Since 1994, Wendy’s High School Heisman has honored more than 600,000 of the nation’s most esteemed high school seniors in partnership with the Heisman Memorial Trophy. The leadership award-honorees are well-rounded young men and woman who excel in learning, performing, and leading in the class room, on the field and in the community.

On Dec. 12 at the National Heisman Memorial Trophy presentation in New York City, more than 5,000 senior student-athletes will be named recipients of $120,000 to schools across the country.

“The award is not just based on being an athlete. It’s based on being a student-athlete, one who performs equally well in the classroom, and in the community,” Smith said about being named a finalist. “It’s someone who strives to meet their goals, succeeding on and off the field.” oval, the Scottsbluff Star-Herald named her female track athlete of the year for two years running. This year, Smith hopes for the trifecta. Among other accolades, she also was named to the all-state team in cross country and track.

Outside athletic endeavors, Smith involves herself in Speech, and FFA. An uncanny entertainer, she also performs in the school’s regular and show choirs.

“I learned to work hard,” Smith said. “I had to work through a lot of struggles to get to where I am today. It’s not something you can do because you want to, or because it’s fun; You have to put your heart into it.”

Smith has yet to decide where she’ll go after high school, but she’s considering three schools all within the state of Nebraska. Wherever she ends up, she plans to compete in track and possibly cross country.

“I’d like to major in business administration, and hopefully be involved in some way with health and human services,” she said. “I don’t know where I’ll live, or where I’ll be in 10 years. I see myself just getting started, basically.”

Thinking about what she’ll do after four or five years at college, Smith shakes her head about what career lies ahead. One thing’s for sure, whatever it is, she’s already built a good foundation, with the drive and fortitude to get there.

Her motivation to achieve appears in the kind of advice she’d give others who might follow in her footsteps, though they’d be some big shoes to fill. “Don’t think about what other people think about what you like to do, or the way you like to do things,” she said. “I struggled my freshman year, finding out what I wanted to do, where I wanted to be. That was a setback for me. You should do what you love, and don’t give two thoughts about it. If you love it, it’s what will make you happy. Don’t worry about what makes others happy. Set high goals for yourself, and don’t give up. The minute you give up, you lose that chance to accomplish something.”

Bayard Homecoming Queen Jessi Smith poses with fellow classmate Nicole Barker. Courtesy photos

Jessi Smith (left) poses with 4X100 teammates Chellani Parriot, Miah Vera and Elizabeth Brown.
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