Brent Smith is no stranger to West High School cross country and track and field.subscribe to read full article
As a distance runner at Central in the early 2000s, Smith said his toughest competition came against the tradition-rich Rebels.
That history of success is one of reasons Smith jumped at the recent opportunity to become head coach of the West track and field program.
“I remember some really good runners coming through West,” said Smith, who follows Will Jay as the Rebels’ coach.
Smith, who was a walk-on distance runner in both track and field and cross country at the University of Tennessee, has kept abreast of the West program in recent years through his post as Developmental Program Director for Knoxville Youth Athletics.
“I’m familiar with many of the kids there (at West) now and some of them coming up,” said the 33-year-old Smith.
The KYA program, directed by former UT runner Marty Sonnenfeldt, focuses on developing the sport of track and field and cross country locally.
The program serves more than 10,000 youngsters ages 5 to 18 in the area who are involved in the sports.
Sonnenfeldt said Smith, through his myriad experiences with KYA, is well qualified to take over a high-profile position like West.
“I’ve known Brent since he was 14 years old,” said Sonnenfeldt.
“He literally grew up in our program as an athlete. He went on to run at UT and afterwards has been involved in all facets of our program. He has seen track and field from the ground up.”
Sonnenfeldt said Smith’s background at KYA – which has included athlete development, coaching, officiating, meet management, etc. – has prepared him well for the rigors of being a track coach at the highest level.
“Brent has had great preparation for being a head track coach,” said Sonnenfeldt.
“I would call it a director of track and field, where you’ve got 60 or 70 athletes and four or five coaches. You have to know how to manage.”
Smith said he always has viewed West as a plum job.
“West is a unique place,” he said.
“I always felt like West was the most diverse school in the county. You’ve got a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds and there’s plenty of talent there.”
It didn’t take Smith long to show off his comfort level with delegating responsibility.
One of his first moves was to bring back West cross country coach Patrick Gildea as assistant track coach. Gildea, who last served as an assistant track coach two years ago, will have a main responsibility of coaching distance runners.
“Patrick coming back is really going to help us on the distance side,” said Smith.
“I’ve got enough knowledge to coach any group, but that takes a big weight off me. What I do a little differently is manage the sport.”