June 19 has been a special day around the Smith household.
39 years ago, Mike Smith and Mary Thomas had their first son, Travis. Seven years ago, their son Ryan was married in Prague.
In 2016, June 19 will be the final day of Mike Smith’s coaching career. After 44 years of coaching track and cross country, Smith will finish his coaching career at the New Balance Outdoor National Track and Field Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina. As June 19 is also Father’s Day, it will be extra special for a coach who has been a fatherly figure to thousands of Saline teenaged runners over the last 39 years.
If that wasn’t enough, Smith will be presented with the 2016 Mike Byrnes National Coach of the Year Award.
The accolades have been many for Smith. And why not? He’s a legend in Michigan running circles. He led Saline to 20 straight girls cross country championships, winning the last one in 2015 just a couple of weeks before announcing his retirement. Smith’s teams have also won 14 straight regional championships. In 2009, Smith and the Hornets won the state championship.
Speaking at the Golden Triangle track meet in May, Smith said the national award was an honor.
“If you’re in education, like I was, you know the profession isn’t known for recognizing all the contributions people make. You might be the best teacher in the world and you’ll be lucky to get a ‘Nice job’ on the way out,” Smith said. “All of this is education in one way, shape or form. So it’s nice to be recognized – especially at the national level.”
Receiving the award on June 19 is fitting.
“It will be on my last day as a coach, so it’s a nice way of finishing things up,” Smith said.
Smith said he sometimes feels a tinge of sadness in his final weeks as a coach.
“You certainly savor days like this,” he said as thousands of athletes were gathered at Saline High School for the Golden Triangle. “It’s not some big emotional thing, but you think about it. This group I’m coaching this year is a good group to go out on. They might not be the most talented group I’ve ever coached, but as far as being good people and good kids, they certainly make it tougher to leave behind.”
While Smith is leaving the coaching ranks, he’ll still be around the cross country courses and high school tracks. He plans to work in race management.
The Saline community plans to pay homage to Smith on Aug. 6. The annual Saline cross country run takes place at 10 a.m. and a retirement celebration will be held at 3 p.m. at Saline Middle School.
To stay apprised of plans, visit http://celebratecoachsmith.weebly.com.