Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Coming back stronger than ever

If triple jumper Marcus Smith steps up onto the top of the podium at the national championships this weekend, it will be the culmination of a long and arduous personal and athletic journey.

As the school record-holder in the event, Smith has never been short on confidence. For a jumper who regularly surpasses 49 feet in the triple jump and approaches 23 feet in the long jump, Smith is right to be very confident about his abilities.

Sophomore Marcus Smith has experienced many roadblocks in his life, but the birth of his 17-month-old daughter Marissa has been a blessing in disguise. Photo submitted.

But there was once a time where things were not so easy for Smith. In fact, life on and off the track has never been a cakewalk for the sophomore from West Allis Central High School.

As a freshman in fall 2008, Smith’s life couldn’t have been any clearer. He was at the start of highly promising career.

In January 2009, everything changed for Smith in one moment. His girlfriend Ashley Fohr told him she was pregnant.

In that instant, Smith knew his life would never be the same.

“That threw me completely off,” Smith said.” Having to leave Whitewater to go to doctor appointments that semester and then at the same time leaving every weekend for track became too much.”

Naturally, Smith’s performance on the track suffered. Then his grades began to suffer.

“I fell into a depressive state,” Smith said. “Nothing really mattered to me in my life anymore. I was like a zombie going through the day. There wasn’t the same excitement I had for school or track … academics took a backseat.”

When the semester concluded, Smith dropped out of college and had seemed to have given up on his dream of going to the Olympic games.

All it took for him to get his path corrected was the birth of his daughter Marissa, and a little bit of advice from his mother.

“She told me I needed to step up and deal with what problems I had in my life,” Smith said.

Smith said the conversation with his mother caused him to realize how much he missed school and how much he wanted to accomplish in his life.

Despite not receiving complete support from Ashley for his plan for his future, he re-enrolled at UW-Whitewater in the spring 2010 with a new mindset.

Although one of Smith’s main goals was to achieve the grades needed to compete as a Warhawk, he came back to college a changed individual.

“I definitely have a greater sense of self-responsibility,” Smith said. “I can’t always depend on other people to help me out. I have to do it for myself. Everything isn’t going to be handed to you on a silver platter so you have to step up at times and become organized in order to succeed in life.”

Paving the way for Smith’s road to athletic and personal redemption has been the guiding hand of men’s track and field head coach Mike Johnson.

Johnson was there for Smith when he needed someone to talk to and got into his life more than a coach would do with any other athlete on the team.

“He took a path that about 99.8 percent of students wouldn’t be able to bring themselves out of a hole like that,” Johnson said. “It’s very rare that somebody in that situation could put their nose down, focus that hard, and be able to achieve the sort of results that he has in a short amount of time.”

If there is any indication as to where Smith’s resolve and determination come from, the way he was raised could make a noteworthy case.

Marcus Smith dabbles in both the triple jump, long jump and hurdles. A state champion in the hurdles in high school, Smith got to nationals in the triple jump. Photo by Tim Gumz.

As the middle of five children, born to a single and very hard-working mother, Smith grew up without a father.

Smith said while this might seem like a burden to most people, it’s been a motivating factor for him both on and off the track.

“I use it as my personal drive,” Smith said. “I use it as my own personal motivation. This is what he’s missing out on and he doesn’t realize how much of my life he missed out on.”

While Smith’s father missed out on his life, Smith said there is no way he will miss out on his child’s life.

He is thoroughly dedicated to improving the future for Marissa with every action he performs in his life. And it starts with the smallest of decisions, such as whether or not to go to class every day.

“I realized that I can’t slack off in school anymore because I know it affects [Marissa],” Smith said. “I realize that everything I do now will affect her future in some way.”

Smith said Ashley and he have an agreement allowing Smith to see Marissa as much as he can.

If there’s anyone who relishes having Smith’s personality on the team, it’s Johnson.

Johnson said he wishes all athletes could have the attitude and dedication that Smith brings to the track every day.

“He’s a very confident person, and he’s very goal-oriented and focused,” Johnson said. “When he sets his mind to something, he’s going to achieve it.”

If things go exactly right, Smith will be standing atop that podium.

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Founded 1901
Coming back stronger than ever