CANTON Jade Smith lived something of a double life the past few months.
Much of the time, she was a full-time employee at the Shearer’s Foods corporate offices in Massillon. But she was also in her final semester as a student-athlete at Malone University, finishing her degree and running races for the Pioneers.
The former Lake High School standout graduated last month, officially making the move into the post-college world, but before she did, she received one final honor by being named to the 2018 Academic All-District IV First Team in recognition of her athletic and academic accomplishments.
"It’s awesome, just being able to see all of my hard work pay off in classroom and on the track," Smith said. "It felt good to end that way even though my track season didn’t end the way I wanted to."
Smith, an accounting and business major, competed in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Division II national championship meet, where she was one of four competitors who received the dreaded "DNF" in the results - did not finish. It wasn’t the result she wanted in her final race of her college career, but it was still a career with plenty of impressive feats.
In cross country, she collected Great Midwest Athletic Conference First Team and All-Midwest Region honors before becoming an NCAA Division II All-American and she placed 20th overall among 247 competitors at the national championship meet, which marked the highest individual finish for a Malone women’s cross country runner during the NCAA Division II era.
Her success continued during the indoor track season, when she helped her team place fourth at the G-MAC championships after placing third in the 5,000 meters, fifth in the mile and fifth in the 3,000 meters.
In her final outdoor season this spring, she received All-Midwest Region honors in the 10,000 meters and the 3,000-meter steeplechase and once again was part of a fourth-place finish for the Pioneers at the conference championship meet. Her time was good enough to earn that spot at the national meet last month, all while working full-time.
Despite the apparent time constraints of being both a full-time employee and a student-athlete all at once, Smith insisted it wasn’t a difficult process to work out her schedule.
"It was an interesting balance to try to handle everything in spring, but they were really great about it at the office," Smith said. "If had a meet, they would tell me to take the day off or take the weekend off."
With a supportive employer, Smith was able to pull off her double duty and in the process, become one of just 15 women’s cross country and/or track and field student-athletes to be selected for the Academic All-District IV First Team amongst NCAA Division II District IV which includes institutions from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC), Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) and G-MAC.
The Academic All-District Teams are selected by members of College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) and recognize the nation's top student-athletes for both athletic and academic accomplishments. Nominees for the award must be a starter or important reserve, possess at least a 3.30 cumulative grade-point average (on a 4.00 scale) and have achieved at least sophomore academic status.
Honorees are first selected from eight geographic districts across the United States and Canada. Smith and the 14 other First-Team Academic All-District honorees from District IV will now advance to the Academic All-America Team ballot, where first, second and third team All-America honorees will be voted upon and then announced in late June.
By then, she’ll be well into her new life as a member of the working world, but the memories of her final season of college track remain entrenched in her mind.
"When I 10,000 (at the national meet), it was a little bit emotional, but I kind of prepared myself for that over the last few weeks getting ready for it to end," Smith said. "I am ready to move on and we had a decent group there for the meet to support us."
The transition from being in college to being a graduate with a full-time job has been easy, Smith noted, because she’s been working for several months now and actually has a bit less on her plate than she did before. Depending on how the voting turns out for the All-American honors, she could have a nice new addition to help decorate her desk in a few weeks.
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