West Chester Henderson Spencer Smucker is Daily Local News’ Boys’ Cross-Country Runner of the Year

West Chester – West Chester Henderson junior Spencer Smucker, the Daily Local News 2016 All-Area Boys’ Cross Country Runner of the Year, is making a habit of winning a medal at the PIAA Championships.
This fall, Smucker became only the third runner in the last 30 years to medal at the PIAA State Championships as a freshman, sophomore and junior.
Each time at states, he gets closer to the top. Smucker placed 24th at states as a freshman and finished 15th as a sophomore. This fall, the venue, Hershey’s hilly Parkview Course, was revised and Smucker rose to the challenge, winning a third straight medal by placing 12th.
“The most challenging part of this year’s [States] was getting used to the [revised] course,” said Smucker. “I had really gotten used to the layout of the old course over the past two years and the last mile being different definitely threw me off a bit. I probably went out a little too fast this year and I could definitely feel it during the third mile of the race.”
As a freshman at states, Smucker had to put on a final burst of speed to earn his medal.
“I can still picture it,” said Smucker. “I climbed the final hill and closed the gap between the pack ahead of me and barely inched ahead of two people to sneak into the medals as I crossed the finish line [at 24th].”
Smucker feels his best race this fall was at districts, where he placed fourth, clocking a personal-best 15:37 in the 5K race. His effort helped the Warriors place fifth in the team standings.
“I felt really good that day,” said Smucker. “The key for me that day was the pressure of knowing how I perform might affect whether or not the whole team would go through to states — and not wanting to let the team down.
“[This fall] I learned that the sport isn’t really just about the individual runner. I saw that the team was just as important, if not more important, and I really tried to push my team. By the end of the season, getting to states as a team was more important to me than my individual performance.”
Another individual highlight for Smucker this fall was competing in his first-ever Manhattan Invitational, and finishing as the third-fastest Pennsylvania runner.
“I knew the race was super competitive going in, but honestly I was not ready for it to go out as fast as it did,” said Smucker. “I remember having to sprint really hard in the beginning just to not be caught in the first choke point, but even then I almost fell numerous times throughout the rest of the race and barely saw the leaders at points.”
Smucker’s interest in cross country began in seventh grade, after he tried out for the Peirce Middle School soccer team, but didn’t make the cut.
“I always thought I was a decent runner so I decided to get into shape by running cross-country,” said Smucker. “My first year I was fairly successful, and then in eighth grade I really got into it competitively and was able to get my school record in the mile.”
Smucker’s pre-race ritual includes eating a bagel about three hours before his race.
“When it gets close to race time, I just begin to tune everything out and focus in on the race, and next thing I know the gun goes off,” said Smucker.
Smucker said his running shoe of choice is Hoka: “I started off this season with a [different] pair of shoes, but I began to roll my ankles frequently so I switched to Hokas — they are super padded.”
The Henderson junior is now focusing on the winter indoor track season.
“I used to wrestle during my freshman year but gave it up for indoor track,” said Smucker. “I still miss [wrestling] sometimes, but indoor has really helped me to be a better runner.”
Smucker has not chosen a college yet, but said he would like to work in one of the STEM fields, science, technology, engineering or math.

Fun facts – Spencer Smucker

Favorite book: EPIC
Favorite author: Jeff Smith
Favorite TV show: Last Man Standing
Favorite movie: Kung Pow Enter the Fist
Favorite athlete: Allen Webb
Favorite pre-race pump-up song: Awake and Alive by Skillet
Favorite team: Philadelphia Eagles
Favorite place to visit: “The movies”
Favorite pre-race meal: Spaghetti and meatballs
Favorite local running venue: “During the season, it’s definitely Singer Farms, because that is where the team does our hard runs and I really love the feeling of going fast through the fields there.”
Person I most admire: “A teammate of mine named Henry. Henry has been running for five years now but has never been able to make varsity. The reason I respect him so much is because I see people like him try their hardest every day and not get any recognition for it. Watching Henry every day inspires me to try my hardest and be the best runner I can be.”
Birth date: April 28, 2000, in West Chester

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply