Fast times at Smith
Appeal Sports Writer
You’re not going to find a lot of excitement or fast lifestyle in Smith Valley. For the most part, the hub of activities in the community revolve around the community’s high school that barely numbers more than 100 students.
“You don’t live here because you have to,” Smith Valley High track and field coach Jim Gleason mused. “To live in Smith Valley, you want to be here. I mean, the store closes at 6 o’clock and if you don’t have all your stuff by then, you have to go to town and get it.”
That means driving to nearby Yerington, otherwise, the closest shopping would be in Gardnerville or even Carson City.
So, if you’re looking for fast times in Smith Valley, that would be … Easton Harris running 14.96 seconds in the 110-meter high hurdles … Jordan Savidge 11.45 in the 100 meters and 22.82 in the 200 meters … or Kylee Gleason’s 47.98 in the 300-meter low hurdles. And for big excitement … well, that would be Savidge clearing 16-feet in the pole vault.
All of those marks were good enough to win gold medals last weekend at the NIAA/Las Vegas Review-Journal State Track and Field Championships in Las Vegas. Smith Valley also walked off with both the boys and girls 1A team championships.
The team races weren’t even close because the boys rolled up 170 points, 58 better than runner-up Spring Mountain, and the girls scored 143 points, 32 better than Lund. This marked the first time any 1A school had won dual titles since the Mineral County boys and girls won in 1987. Smith Valley won Class B boys and girls state titles in 1985. Call it a team effort because this is a program where everyone contributes.
“The girls and boys warm-up together side by side and they work out together, so to see this all come together for both is just tremendous,” Gleason said.
This year, the Smith Valley program has gained recognition statewide – even nationally – because of Savidge in the pole vault. The senior went 16-3 at the Lyon County Championships last month, the best high school pole vault mark in Nevada history – regardless of classification – and a mark that ranks among the top 10 among preps across the nation.
Savidge is a three-time state pole vault champion (he lost on fewer misses as a freshman in 2002). He has posted victories the last two years at the prestigious Simplot Games in Pocatello, Idaho, and placed second in the high school vault last month at the Mt. SAC Relays in Southern California. His accomplishments have drawn recruiting attention from such college programs as Arizona, Kansas, Washington, Washington State and Oregon.
“He’s going to be a great find for some college,” Gleason said. “He’s a real bulldog at heart, a kid who, If you give him a challenge, he will do everything he can to make it happen. And the thing about Jordan, he’s very humble. He likes to perform and he likes the crowd, but when he doesn’t have a good day, he feels badly for the crowd because he feels he let them down.”
In addition to his state titles in the 100 and 200, Savidge also won the long jump with a mark of 22-0 3/4 that would have placed second in the 4A. He is entered in the decathlon and pole vault at the Great Southwest Classic, which will bring blue chip athletes from seven states to Albuquerque, N.M., on June 2-4.
Don’t come away with the impression Smith Valley has a one-man band because Savidge will be joined at the Great Southwest Classic by teammates Sam Marshek in the pole vault and Harris in the 110 highs. Savidge, Marshek and Harris combined to sweep the pole vault at state, but Harris will skip the event in Albuquerque due to a shoulder injury. Marshek, a senior, has finished second in the pole vault at state the last two years and his 15-0 clearance would have won any other division on Saturday. Harris, a junior who was undefeated in the high hurdles this season, ran a time of 14.96 that would have placed second in the 4A competition.
Then there’s Kylee Gleason, the coach’s daughter and a sophomore who is as talented as any athlete in the program. Young Gleason set state records of 11-0 to win the girls pole vault (she went 11-6 at regionals one week before) and 47.98 in the 300 lows on Friday.
That nucleus combined to help Smith Valley win its state team titles. There’s still more to the story because the Bulldogs, like baseball’s 1979 world champion Pittsburgh Pirates, think of themselves as family.
“We try to make this more than a team, we want it to be a family,” coach Gleason said. “We tell these guys that if everyone works together as a team and family, things have a way of falling into place. Even the kids who aren’t going to win gold medals, they all know they’re part of a great program. We want them to walk away feeling good about what they’ve done and what their team has done.”
At any meet they go to, the Bulldogs are seen at every corner of the track. If they’re not competing, they’re cheering for their teammates. They’ve even been known to cheer good performances by their opponents.
“There’s a lot of competition just within the team, but there’s a ton of camaraderie, too,” Gleason said. “When Jordan made 16-3, Sam was the first one in the pit to congratulate him.”
Gleason gives credit to the people who have decided they “want” to live in Smith Valley.
“I’m very blessed to have the kids we have out here,” he said. “I think a lot of that has to do with the family values here in Smith Valley and that the kids seem to bring those values with them to our program.”
Many of these philosophies can be traced back to the 1970s when Gleason was a state champion distance runner at Fernley High. Coach Jack Cook was the architect of a Fernley program that won seven straight 1A state boys track and field titles and was competitive with any Nevada program between 1973 and ’79. Gleason was the first 1A state cross country champion as a freshman in 1972.
“Jack Cook has definitely been a big inspiration of mine and I definitely bring a lot of his philosophies to my program,” coach Gleason said. “There was always a rhyme or reason for what he wanted you to do, and I always try to explain to the kids why I want them to do something. I believe that as long as you’re up front and honest with the kids, they will buy into what you’re saying.”
Gleason – who now works as the Lyon County School District’s electrician – never got to run in college, nor did he obtain a college degree. But he emphasizes to his athletes the importance of academics and of advancing their education. Smith Valley’s boys logged a team grade point average of 3.22 that won the 1A state academic championship this season. The girls had a grade point average of better than 3.5, but lost the state academic championship to Lund.
By the way, keeping with the family theme of Smith Valley’s program, Gleason’s assistant coach is his own wife, Marla, a teacher and volleyball coach at Smith Valley. And since today is their 20th anniversary, the state championships ame as sort of an early present to each other.
“How often do you get to go to Las Vegas for your anniversary? We get to do it every year,” Gleason said with a laugh.
“We’re on a natural high right now,” he added of the state titles. “I’m very proud of my kids and the program and all the accomplishments. I just hope we can continue to do good things in the future. We’re sure going to give it a great shot.”
n Contact Dave Price at email@example.com or call 881-1220.