Disappointed with his showing at the conference meet, Carter Smith of Cranberry will be seeking improvement as a freshman on the Allegheny College men’s cross country team at the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional championship Saturday at the Dickinson College course in Newville, Cumberland County, near Carlisle.
Smith, a former Eden Christian Academy standout, posted his slowest time of the season in an 8K race (28 minutes, 34.4 seconds) in finishing 37th at the North Coast Athletic Conference championship Nov. 1 in Granville, Ohio.
“The team had a pretty bad race; conditions were not ideal,” said coach Brent Wilkerson, noting windy and cool weather.
On the Granville course, Smith recorded a mark of 28:07.8 at the Denison Invitational in September. His top time (26:53) came against runners from all three NCAA divisions at the Paul Short Classic at Lehigh last month.
At the Inter-Regional Rumble at Oberlin on Oct. 18, Smith finished in 26:56.6.
Smith, 19, expects experience to help at the regional championship.
“Just having another 8K race under my belt will (be beneficial),” he said.
Wilkerson said Smith, who won Eden Christian’s first WPIAL title of any kind at the Class A boys championship last fall, has been good in transitioning from 5K to 8K races.
In his lone 5K run, Smith had a mark of 16:44 at the season-opening Allegheny College Classic in late August — two seconds faster than his time at the WPIAL meet and nine seconds better than his mark at the PIAA championship a year ago.
“Carter shows signs of improvement and has progressed well,” said Wilkerson, who is impressed by Smith’s consistency. “He’s done a fantastic job as our four or five runner.”
Smith had a modest goal at the conference championship.
“I just wanted to help the team out,” he said.
Allegheny, runner-up last year, finished fifth of 10 squads.
“(We are) determined to bounce back and are all expecting a strong outing,” Smith said. “I think mental focus and a more tenacious attitude will serve us well on race day.”
Smith hopes to do well enough at regionals to qualify for the NCAA national championship Nov. 22 at the Golf Center at Kings Island in Mason, Ohio.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.