By Greg Ritchie
LATEXO – There was a time when each young person had their “thing.” Some were jocks, some book nerds – there was always that one, most popular girl and the quiet boy who didn’t have so many friends. Over the last few years, students are expected to excel at just about everything. Colleges look for “well-rounded” students. It is often no longer enough to have the grades – kids these days must have all A’s plus be student council president and an all-district athlete to get their college applications to the top of ever-growing piles of candidates.
For Latexo High School sophomore Madelyn Smith, playing on the varsity volleyball team during her freshman year wasn’t enough. She played on the varsity basketball team, too. And on the Lady Tiger softball team in the spring. Trying to balance three separate sports her freshman year, adjust to high school and keep the grades up couldn’t have been easy. But the young lady took it in stride, with a maturity and intense competitiveness to be envied.
Smith said she always enjoyed sports, playing in leagues since she was a small girl. She has attended Latexo schools from the start, excelling in sports. Getting to the high school level was a new world to her, with its faster pace and higher athleticism, although she has excelled there, too.
Smith said her favorite subject right now is sports entertainment, turning sports into marketing and news and interpreting the teams, the games and the competition. She is not a huge fan of math and physics at the moment – although most of us struggled with both growing up.
“It can definitely be a handful, sometimes. But our teachers are very flexible when it comes to sports and doing schoolwork at the same time. It can be a lot, missing school for tournaments and whatnot. But overall, it’s not too bad because we go to our teachers and talk about it and they’re very understanding when it comes to sports,” Smith acknowledged.
Raised by Justice of the Peace Precinct One Mike McCreight and Tammi English McCreight – who recently won a seat on the Houston County Hospital District board – Smith said having parents involved in local politics hasn’t affected her young life in any major way.
“There’s pros and cons, but there’s pros and cons to everything,” Smith said. “We get to be involved in a whole lot of things in the community and I really enjoy it. I don’t know about me going into something like that. I’ve thought about it, but not exactly sure if I would be good at it.”
Known as Maddie, Smitty, Maddie Ann – take your pick, Smith is an intense athlete who plays to win every game and grits her teeth and scowls when her team loses. She missed several weeks of play last year after that intensity cost her an ankle injury, teaching her to hold back a little sometimes, even in the heat of “battle.”
The Lady Tiger basketball squad is beginning to find its rhythm, affected by the temporary loss of their coach and LISD Athletic Director Greg Horn due to illness. Smith said in spite of that, the girls are improving with each game.
“We started out a little slow with Coach Horn being out but we’ve definitely picked up the pace,” Smith said. “We’re running some new stuff, which is new to all of us, not just me. We’re playing a whole lot faster than we were and we’ve seen a whole lot of improvements, playing different teams, bigger schools, better teams, which will be good for us in what hopefully will be a playoff run.”
Now 2-2 in their non-district games, Smith spoke to The Messenger shortly before another non-district home game against Nomangee.
Smith said all the activities are keeping her busy, making the year go by fast. What do you do when you are involved in three major sports with a full school-load on top? Sign up for another sport, of course.
“I am actually planning on doing track this year with Coach Silva. We’ve been talking about high jump,” Smith said.
Smith dreams of playing volleyball in college after she finishes high school, preferably at a school far enough away to have a little independence, but not too far away from her family and friends.
While some may believe the grass is always greener on the other side and big city kids have all the advantages, for Smith, there’s no place like home.
“I don’t think I’d go anywhere else – there’s so much to offer here, not only in sports but also academically,” Smith said. “Our Health Science Program is huge, which I’m involved in. I like being in a small town.”
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]