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Smith named state's top track and field athlete

By Derrick Mahone

dmahone@news-daily.com

D.J. Smith realizes that there is a fine line between confidence and cockiness.

The former Lovejoy High two-sport athlete is very careful that he never crosses it. Smith is very humble about his many track and field accomplishments.

Recently, the incoming Auburn freshman added to his postseason accolades when he was named the Gatorade Georgia Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

"This is a great accomplishment," said Smith, who spoke via cellphone from Iowa where he was competing this week.

"You can't let winning make you cocky. You definitely have to stay humble," he said.

Since this summer, the nation's top high jumper has been competing across the country. He won the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships at Drake University in Iowa on Friday. He had a jump of seven-feet, 3.75 inches that beat several college entries.

The championships in Des Moines were open to competitors under the age of 20.

"I'm very pleased with the opportunity to compete," he said. "I'm blessed. This just shows that hard work does pay off."

Since he won the state Gatorade player of the year award, Smith now becomes a finalist for the prestigious national player of the year award, which will be announced next week. Smith is now part of an elite group of past state winners in 12 sports.

Smith, who also played on the school's state-playoff basketball team, is a three-time Class AAAAA state high jump champion. He won this season's state championship with a leap of 6-10. He also had a jump of 7-4 at the Westlake Relays on April 3, which is the best jump in the nation by a high school athlete.

The jump is tied for the seventh best jump in the country since 1999, according to dyestat.com.

"There was a lot working against him this year, and I'm proud of what he's accomplished," said Lovejoy coach Nicole Bonner. "His determination, dedication and love for the sport are going to take him a long way."

At the Great Southwest Classic in Albuquerque, N.M., earlier this summer, Smith went 7-2.5 to set a meet record. The majority of the competitors were from the southwest part of the country, and Smith netted an invitation to add some competition to the field.

"Winning these meets have really given me a lot of confidence," Smith said.