Senior Distance Runner Takes Summer Interval In Colorado
July 24, 2002
Colorado Springs, Colo. - For collegiate student-athletes, the summer season is known for training, a time to make some money and to have a little fun before the dawning of the school year.
For Danny Smith, a senior member of the UIC cross country and track & field teams, he has distanced himself from his beloved homeland in order to see some new things, while educating himself for an inevitable brilliant future.
This summer, Smith is training hard, having fun and making a little money, but he might as well be attending classes, because he is learning some things, as well.
Smith, who was born and raised on the Northwest side of Chicago, is engaged in a marriage of sorts with The Windy City, and carries a sense of hometown pride on his sleeve.
This summer, however, he accepted an opportunity to leave Chicago for an extended period of time for the first time in his life to work at the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Smith has relished his stay in the Rockies and has learned much more than his actual internship has offered throughout the past two months.
"When I return to Chicago, I'll really miss this job," Smith said. "It's been a great deal of fun and quite an experience."
The USOC serves as an umbrella for all of America's Olympic endeavors, and Smith has been relegated to work for U.S. Cycling, which coincidentally, is very busy with the sport's premier event-The Tour de France-which is taking place overseas currently.
In fact, the St. Patrick's High grad has been assigned the task of covering the Tour for U.S. Cycling's web site, usacycling.org.
"The coolest thing has been covering the Tour de France and just really getting close to it," Smith said. "The Tour is like another world, but I've been following the Americans, including Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service team; it's been pretty wild."
Smith has also produced copy for the organization's magazine, USA Cycling.
"Smitty," as he is known by most, has rapidly built his resume into a laundry list of writing experience. Outside of being a gifted student with several academic all-league honors to his credit, he has worked as a freelance writer for Windy City Sports, The Daily Southtown, Elite Magazine and has been the sports editor of the UIC Today, while his work has also appeared in the Chicago Flame.
Smith is a secondary education/English major and would like to teach prep English courses. His plans include graduate school, but he would love to see a column bearing his name in the Chicago Sun-Times one day.
With three weeks left in his stay out West, Smith has figured out a few things. He likes Colorado Springs, but he loves Chicago. He also likes the people at his summer gig, but he couldn't live without those closest to him back home. He likes working 9-to-5, but just for this summer, and is really satisfied with choosing teaching as a profession.
"I've learned, and this is building on learning experiences of the previous years, that I'm more of a family man than I ever thought," Smith explained. "I've really learned where 'home' is and that doesn't necessarily mean Chicago.
It just means the people I love and care about being around me."
One can see how absence can make the heart grow fonder in Smith's case, deriving from a fantastic family. His Irish-Catholic clan is tight-knit, and has steered his life with diligent reins, including his late grandmother, Mary Helen, his mother, Mary Ellen and his siblings, Michelle and Bobby.
The gap between mountain and skyscraper is also too wide for Smith, and can't wait to return to his bustling stomping ground.
"I walk to breakfast and the office each day and I look west to see nothing but mountains, including Pike's Peak," Smith said. "The lifestyle here is so much different...still, I can't wait to return to the chaos and crime of my beloved city.
Plus, the Colorado Sky Sox just can't match my Cubbies and the friendly confines of Wrigley Field."
After a slow start to his summer training in the elevation of the Rockies thanks to a nagging knee injury, Smith has been steadily making strides towards getting back in shape for the pending cross country season. The 2002 ledger has the potential to be a breakout season for the Flames. Along with Smith, UIC returns the talented senior duo of Rich Daubert and Joe Marren to the starting line to pace the West Side harriers.
"We will continue to improve and establish tradition," Smith said. "I think we have a solid shot at a top-three finish at the conference meet. Ideally, I'd like to knock off Loyola," Smith continued. "We've been trying to do it for four years now and I'd love to give a quality program like that a run for their money.
"Coach (Jim) Knoedel deserves some good results, and I, for one, really want to give him those results."
The summer experiences in Colorado have taught Smith many things, but most of all about life outside of any occupation. Prior to his departure to "the Springs," an editorial detailing his life would have been titled, "Smith does it his way, and everyone else get out of the way."
But now, Smith is scripting his own life column. His life is still under his pen, but those closest to him now get an opportunity to look at the first draft before the final piece is turned in.
Check the newsstands ladies and gentlemen, the new daily column of life from Danny Smith is called, "My way and the highway."