Deserving Smith handles success well

Sunday, July 3, 2005

I don't know if people are getting tired of me writing about Miles Smith -- I sure hope not -- but Southeast Missouri State's track and field sensation deserves all the praise anybody can give him ... and more.

Smith's latest accomplishment just might be his biggest yet -- and that's saying something -- as this past week he was selected for the United States team that will compete in the World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, Aug. 6 to 14. He will be a member of the 1,600-meter relay.

By placing sixth in the 400-meter run June 25 at the USA Track and Field Championships in Carson, Calif., Smith certainly deserved to be placed on the six-man U.S. relay squad. But there were still many anxious moments until word came that he had been selected, because you never know when politics are going to be involved.

Several weeks ago, after Smith won the school's first NCAA Division I regional title -- by a team or individual -- and was ranked among the top 15 in the world, I wrote that he had to appear on any kind of a short list rating the top athletes and accomplishments in Southeast history.

And his latest feats only add to it, as Smith backed up his fifth-place, All-American finish in the NCAA finals with that incredible sixth-place showing at the USA Championships. He entered the meet as a virtual unknown against a field full of high-profile professionals and exited as the sixth-best 400-meter runner in the nation -- in an event that the U.S. dominates on a world-wide basis.

One of the neat things about Smith -- besides from appearing to genuinely be a nice young man -- is that he seems to have a very good head on his shoulders.

That was exhibited during a news conference the university held Tuesday, with Smith and Southeast coach Joey Haines fielding questions from the media.

When asked how tempting it would be to turn professional --where he could likely earn well into six figures per year based on his recent performances -- Smith said that's certainly a goal for the future, but right now he values his education and knows how important it is for him to earn his degree.

An unbelievable, world-class athlete -- from little old Southeast -- who also seems to have his priorities in order.

Now that's the kind of person anybody should root for.

For all the success the Plaza Tire Capahas have had under longtime manager Jess Bolen, something has been lacking the past three seasons.

The missing ingredient? A National Baseball Congress Mid-South Regional championship.

The Capahas will try to rectify that this coming weekend when they host the regional tournament that has become an annual fixture in Cape Girardeau. Play is scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Capaha Park.

Despite having to watch another team celebrate a championship on their field the last three years, in the long run that has not hurt the Capahas because they have made 23 consecutive appearances in the prestigious NBC World Series.

But each season Bolen, who has won about 80 percent of his games since he took over as manager 39 years ago, worries that an at-large bid to the NBC World Series might not be forthcoming -- and one of these years he might be right.

In order to eliminate all the suspense, the Capahas -- who are tuning up for this weekend's tournament with a three-game series against the powerful Wichita (Kan.) Broncs that was scheduled to begin Saturday night -- need to finally reclaim dominance of the Mid-South Regional.

We'll soon find out if they're able to pull it off.

Speaking of the Capahas, how about what pitcher Jamie McAlister has done so far this season.

McAlister, who had a solid rookie campaign with Southeast this year after transferring in from junior college, threw his second no-hitter for the Capahas this season Wednesday night. He allowed just one baserunner -- a hit batsman -- against the St. Louis Golden Spikes.

Bolen said it's the first time a pitcher has tossed two no-hitters in the same season during his 39 years as the Capahas' manager.

Southeast women's basketball player Leanne Evans is getting some solid training as she prepares for her sophomore season with the Redhawks.

Evans, a 6-foot-2 center who saw limited playing time for the Redhawks as a freshman but is considered to be a key player for the future, is for the second straight summer participating with the Canadian Junior Women's National Team.

In a recent tuneup for the FIBA Under-19 World Championships in Tunisia from July 15 to 24, Evans scored a game-high 14 points to lead Canada past Cuba in the opening game of a three-team tournament the Canadian squad hosted.

With Southeast last season, Evans averaged two points per game while appearing in 27 of the Redhawks' 30 contests.

Lauren Lueders is widely regarded as one of the state's top female high school basketball players -- and among the best in the nation -- despite the fact she competes for the boys team at Saxony Lutheran High School, where she will be a senior.

And now Lueders plans to see if her considerable talents will translate to the big-time college level. On Wednesday, she gave a verbal commitment to Vanderbilt University, a perennial top-20 program that has appeared in the NCAA tournament 16 of the past 17 years, including two straight Sweet 16 showings.

Lueders, who cannot sign with the Commodores until November, will become one of the very few area female basketball players over the years to compete for a nationally ranked program.

Fans who have seen Lueders more than hold her own against boys over the last few years can follow her career on the next level. It should be interesting.

Sikeston High School product Jacob Priday has received quite an honor after a standout rookie baseball season at the University of Missouri.

Priday was recently selected to Baseball America's Freshman All-America first team. He batted .305 with nine home runs and 67 RBIs for the Tigers this year.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: