James Smith Jr. is the top hurdler in Arizona for both the Highs and Intermediates. Last year at the USA Junior Olympics in Kansas, he ran a State Record of 52.61 for the 400-meter Hurdles. Most recently, he ran a meet record of 36.58 for the 300m Hurdles, at the Chandler Rotary which ranks him at 2nd in the nation currently. James takes after his father, James Smith Sr., who was part of the Maryvale High School State Championship team in 1983. As a Masters athlete he's won 7 national titles and holds the 400-meter Hurdles record in every division from 30-34, 35-39, and 40 to 44-year-olds. "James (Jr.) is a good hurdler naturally and picked it up fairly easily," said Smith the elder who has been coaching at Westwood for 9 years. "I have coached other good hurdlers and so he trusts me and what I say. We have a great relationship and I demand a lot but I am very encouraging." We caught up with James about his career and what has led up to his dominant Senior season.
Name: James Smith Jr.
School: Westwood HS
Where are you from and when did you begin running track?
I'm from Chandler Arizona and I started running track when I was five. When I was 12 I started wanting to do hurdles.
What drew you to the hurdles?
I remember watching my dad train with his club team and how he ran hurdles. When I started middle school, I started wanting to try as well.
What pre-race rituals do you have? Do you listen to music at a meet before your race? If so, what's on your playlist?
My favorite rappers are Chief Keef and frostythesnowmann. I like listening to them before my races and something else I like to do is touch the first hurdle in front of me with my hand. I don't know why it's just something I do.
What do you like most about the hurdles?
I like that there are obstacles and that it requires good form, speed, endurance. I like that it requires a lot of talent. It doesn't just take one thing to be good at the hurdles.
You're coached by your dad James Smith Sr. who heads the AZ Flames Track Club. Could you describe that relationship and how the sport has drawn you closer together?
He's just always been there on and off the track. He's always pushing me to work my hardest. We're always connected by the track.
How different is the Club experience compared to scholastic?
Club when you're younger is all about who matures faster. When you get older you can't beat people just because you're bigger. You gotta' have talent too. I used to be really little and the people who beat me were the big kids and now in high school it comes down to who has more talent.
What has been your favorite memory in your Track career and why?
My favorite memory would have to be when I won USATF Youth Nationals last year in Illinois, getting the State Record for the 400-meter Hurdles. I ran 52.61 and I got 4th at USATF Junior Olympics.
What is your favorite subject in school?
I've always been good at math.
What do you like to eat the night before a race?
If I eat out before a race I usually go to Boston Market or Panda Express. I also like making burritos or tacos. I'm a pretty good chef.
James broke Bobby Grant's meet record at the Brophy AMDG Invite with 36.95 in the Intermediates. Watch that race below.
How do you spend your 'off-time' away from school and the track?
I like hanging out with friends and I used to coach the community basketball and football teams.
Are you in contact with college coaches about competing after high school? If so, have you narrowed down your choices?
Right now, I've been getting a lot of calls in the past week. ASU, UCLA, OK State, LSU, Oregon, Texas A&M I'm still keeping my options open before I narrow my options down.
Are there any other comments you'd like to add?
I wanna' give a shoutout to my Dad, and Coach Holden and my club track team for their support.