Smith Accepts Head Coaching Post at Army

Sept. 18, 2014

K-State Athletics
MANHATTAN, Kan. - After 20 years with the K-State Track and Field program, including nine as the head coach of cross country, Mike Smith will be heading to West Point, New York to become the head track and field and cross country coach at the United States Military Academy.

Smith, who had been with K-State since 1994, will become the 11th head coach in the Black Knights' program history. 

"Kansas State is a people place, so I will always feel connected to this place and the people here. I appreciate everything that I have had here," Smith said. "I appreciate coach [Cliff] Rovelto and all the assistant coaches that have been here over the years while I've been here, all the athletic directors - Jill Shields and John Currie. All the people involved in the athletic department, the community that have embraced me, helped me, have guided me.

"And this includes student-athletes. In my 20 years here, I have met a lot of student-athletes and worked with young people that are now surgeons, family doctors, engineers or businessmen. I have been a part of something for 20 years that is greater than me, and I understand that. And I want to thank all the people that I have had the opportunity to work with, and in particular those student-athletes that have colored my experience. Because without them, I do not have a job and I'm not here. So those people that I have been able to coach, be around, I will always be grateful for them. This career change has given me the time to reflect on the opportunity that I have had here to work with so many fine, talented K-Staters."

During his tenure at K-State, Smith has played an integral role in the success of the Wildcat cross country and track and field squads at the Big 12 Conference and NCAA National Championships. In his 20 years with the programs, he helped the women's team to three Big 12 Championships (1998 cross country and 2001-02 outdoor track and field), their highest finish at the NCAA cross country meet (fifth), as well as several top-10 team NCAA finishes for both the men's and women's track and field teams - including the latest streak that saw the men's team finish top-20 at NCAA Outdoors for a program record fourth-consecutive season in 2013.

A native of Ridgefield, Connecticut, Smith took over the reins of the cross country program in 2004 and guided four individuals and one team to the NCAA Championships, including a stretch of five consecutive seasons from 2007-12 that saw the women's team represent K-State. His finest season as head of the program came in 2010, where he led the women to their first NCAA appearance since 2000, nabbing the last at-large bid of the 31-team field, where they finished 25th.

Under his leadership on the track, several individual athletes have reached impressive heights, including junior Sonia Gaskin, who was the latest athlete to excel under Smith's tutelage. The St. George, Barbados native had a dominant sophomore campaign that included first team All-American honors in both the 800 meter and 4x400 meter relay - the first Wildcat women's runner since Korene Hinds in 2001 to earn first team honors in the 800m outdoors.

Smith also coached former All-Americans and Wildcat greats, Boglarka Davies (formerly Bozzay) and Christian Smith. Bozzay, in her time at K-State, was a two-time All-American and Big 12 Champion and currently holds three school records, while Smith, along with five All-American nods, four Big 12 titles and three school records, was an NCAA Champion in the mile in 2006 and 2008 Beijing Olympics Qualifier.

For Smith, he will look upon his 20 years at K-State fondly, as he shifts his focus to heading Army's program and bringing his family closer to home.

"I came to Kansas State University in 1994 with thoughts that I would do a graduate degree and learn as much as I could, be here for two years and move on. And two years has turned into 20 years and it has been the most rewarding 20 years of my life," Smith said. "I have invested everything I have into Kansas State University and honestly I never thought I'd leave. This move of mine has caught me off guard a little bit, but the opportunity to be an hour from my family, to have my children know their grandparents on another level and to see them for more than once a year was too hard to pass up.

"I wouldn't be there today without all those people. I owe a lot to this institution and this community and I won't forget that. I intend to invest myself in this next stop and look forward to the challenge of going there, but I'll never forget where I've been, where my roots are."

K-State Track and Field Head Coach Cliff Rovelto had nothing but well wishes for his longest-tenured assistant.

"Coach Smith has been with us for over 20 years and has been a valued member of our staff. We are sorry to see him leave but appreciate that Army is a wonderful opportunity for him and his family," Rovelto said. "He will be closer to his and his wife's family and will have the opportunity to build on a tremendous history at West Point. Coach Smith is very torn about leaving particularly at this time of the year. This speaks to his tremendous character and loyalty. For those of us involved in collegiate sport know, the only constant is change. Coach Smith will do a fine job at Army. They have hired a wonderful person and coach."

Before joining the Black Knights for the remainder of the cross country season, Smith will first lead the Wildcat cross country squads one more time this weekend at the Big Ten Preview in Iowa City, Iowa. For more information, visit www.k-statesports.com.