Sydney Smith used to be a soccer player. She considered playing for the Tigers when she applied to Dalhousie, but decided against it before starting her first year. Luckily for the track team, Smith’s cleats were replaced with track spikes, and the rest is history.
“I made some decisions with my soccer career where I didn’t really want to compete at the highest level, which I think could have…but it just wasn’t a passion for me like track is now.”
The Kingston, Ont., native ran track in high school, but it played second fiddle to soccer. She spent her first year at Dalhousie in the microbiology program focusing on academics before deciding to jump back into the world of elite athletics. A friend on the track team encouraged her to give the sport another shot, and Smith found her niche.
“In my second year, I went to tryouts and I ended up being alright at it, so I continued and haven’t really looked back since,” she says. “I always liked [track] and I thought ‘you may as well try,’ then my first season actually ended up going super well and it was a huge surprise to me and all our coaches. I got that taste of it and wanted to continue.”
The former star on the pitch has become a star on the track, picking up medals in the sprints at championship events. Smith has run everything from the 60m sprint for indoor season to the 400m event outdoors, but likes to focus on the longer distances.
“I do prefer indoors, because the 300m is a better distance for me than the 200m and the 400m – as long as I am properly trained and ready to go.”
Her first year as a Tiger was impressive to say the least. She won three silver medals at the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) Championships, and placed in the top fifteen at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (now U Sports) Championships in the 300m sprint.
That’s a hard season to top, but she found success again the following year with three of her teammates.
“We broke the AUS meet record for the 4x200m so that was really exciting for us,” Smith says. The relay team went on to race well at the CIS Championships, ending the year with a bang.
“Last year wasn’t my best year,” she continues, “so this year I’m taking it more as a building year and making sure I’m still having fun with it.”
She’s recovering from the foot injury that ended her summer season early, and is making sure to balance sports and schoolwork during her final few months of her undergraduate.
The former team captain was a member of Varsity Council in previous years, but says school is keeping her busy these days.
“I’ve kind of taken a step back this year,” she says.
Smith is now in her fifth year at Dalhousie, and is about to wrap up her kinesiology degree. She changed programs after her second year, and says where she is now is a much better fit.
“As soon as I switched, my grades got so much better just because I was enjoying myself – I didn’t mind studying that type of thing. I love kin now and I’m so happy I switched.”
Her accomplishments in the classroom have found recognition in the realm of athletics – Smith was named an Academic All-Canadian for the past two years, and made the Dean’s List last year. At the moment, she is working on her honours thesis, researching cardiovascular disease in athletes.
Following her graduation, she hopes to continue her academic career at the University of Western Ontario, focusing on exercise physiology and “the cardiovascular neural side of things.” She may close out her varsity career as a Mustang, since she still has at least a year of eligibility – and the desire to compete.
“It’s fun running as fast as you can, you know? It’s such a good feeling for me; I love high speed.”
The past five years have been quite the ride for Smith, but she has taken it all in stride.
“I think Dal has really done a lot for me. I was kind of skeptical in my first year – I felt out of place in my program, but as soon as I learned where I wanted to be, I loved it and I’m so happy all of this happened. It’s been a good career.”