WKU benefiting from talents, experience of junior jumper Smith

Junior Sharika Smith has been on the track and field team since she started at WKU. Smith competes in the long jump, triple jump, 4×1 relay and hurdles. DOROTHY EDWARDS / HERALD

Lucas Aulbach

As one of the most successful runners on the WKU track and field team, junior Sharika Smith has been a competitor since a young age, often ahead of her class.

“I started running when I was in the seventh grade,” Smith said. “I ran for the high school team.”

Smith isn’t shocking anyone with her age anymore. It’s the numbers she’s put up in her time in college that jump out at the casual observer.

Smith has been to NCAA national championships all three of her years at WKU. In her first two times in attendance, she contributed in relay events, and last January she competed alone in the long jump and triple jump events.

The two jumps are the events she now competes in most frequently. She owns the school record for both of the jumps.

Smith’s was persuaded to join the track team by her father, a former semi-professional track athlete, and started running at Fulton County High School.

Head Coach Erik Jenkins first saw Smith perform for the high school at a young age.

“Sharika has always been a competitor,” Jenkins said. “I’ve been watching her since she was in, like, eighth grade.”

Jenkins spent time recruiting Smith throughout her time in high school, where she was named AAU national champion in the triple jump and state champion in a few other events.

Smith said she decided to compete for WKU after visiting most of the other major colleges in the state.

“It just felt really homey here,” she said. “Everything felt natural here. Nothing about it seemed fake.”

Jenkins said his expectations for Smith were high coming in, and she has been able to meet all of them.

“We saw her as almost the future of the program coming in, and she’s been a major contributor since day one,” he said.

Smith’s contributions to the team earned her Sun Belt Freshman of the Year honors in her first year at WKU.

She’s not a newcomer anymore, though. The junior has contributed for years and continues to train, sometimes with freshman Antqunita Reed, who competes in a lot of the same jumps and other events Smith is often featured in.

“We train together a lot, usually just on the jumps and working with the coaches,” Reed said.

Reed said Smith has given helpful advice throughout her first year at WKU.

“At meets she tells me not to be nervous,” Reed said. “If I don’t do great, she just tells me to try hard next time. It’s not the end of the world.”

Jenkins also praised her competitive nature at meets.

“Sharika goes out and competes every single time she has the chance,” he said. “She always wants to win.”

Smith agrees with the sentiment. She said after college she hopes to continue running and perform for a spot on the national Olympic team.

“I want to be a track star,” she said. “I want to compete for the rest of my life.”