DANBURY — A highly successful runner at the middle school level, Alanna Smith was more attached to the shorter distances and produced stellar results there.
In her first season with the Danbury track team this spring, she not only somehow raised the bar, but found a home at an event that was far from her initial favorite.
Having a poise well beyond her years is the best way to describe Smith, whose maturity is a massive benefit during the pressure-packed big races. She’s a dynamic athlete who has thrived at any race she’s participated in, but the balance between strength and speed is showing especially in the 400, where she already owns the school record and swept her way to a handful of medals as a freshman.
“She’s very fast and she’s a really good combination of a solid neurological athlete,” explains Danbury coach Nick Fraticelli. “But she can cover these intense long-sprint workouts so well. … Alanna just takes to them so well; if you were to come by and just see how she uncoils during a long sprint session, it’s pretty amazing.”
“I used to not like the 400 at all,” Smith said. “But I’ve run it so much that it doesn’t really bother me. My favorite part is getting to the 200 because there’s only 200 left, and I know I can just sprint the rest of the way, and it’s going to be over.”
Smith’s coming-out party took place at the Class LL championships, when she won the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races. The triple crown came over two days as weather halted proceedings at New Britain High, and the extra rest proved valuable as she set a school record — which she would lower later in the season — in the 400.
— Ryan Lacey (@RyanLacey11) June 1, 2019
“It was a goal for me because I was seeded first in all my events, so I thought there was a possibility,” Smith said. “I knew it was going to be hard because I had to do three events. It was better it was over the two days so I could get some rest.”
The increased level of competition didn’t stop her last weekend at the New England championships in Maine. Her winning time of 55.49 set a new FCIAC record; she set the school record earlier in the season at the Loucks Games when she ran a 55.93. Smith — who entered high school with a PR of 58.14 in the 400 — and her Hatters teammates will compete at New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina, this weekend to cap the season.
“My favorite race was the Loucks Games when I broke the school record because I went from running a 57 at the start to a 55, and I was surprised,” Smith said. “When I started (Fraticelli) said I could run a 55 or 56 at the end of the season. I was thinking maybe a 57 but I guess he was right.”
Her impact has been felt on the team scores, too. Danbury swept the FCIAC, Class LL and State Open championships in dominating fashion. Smith ran all three events in each in a gut-check set of performances to help the team.
— Ryan Lacey (@RyanLacey11) May 17, 2019
Smith is far from the lone athlete in her family. Her dad is Lee Smith, a former Major League Baseball pitcher for teams including the Cubs, Red Sox and Cardinals, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. Smith’s prime came during the late 1980s and early 1990s, long before Smith’s classmates were born. He’s spent much of the past two decades coaching in the minor leagues and attends meets when schedules align. Alanna moved to Danbury from Louisiana before middle school.
“A lot of people don’t ask me about it or really even know,” Smith said. “I guess because it was (so long ago).”
That’s not the only Hall of Famer in the clan, though. Her uncle George Radachowsky played for the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Jets during the 1980s after being a standout-three sport athlete for the Hatters. He was inducted into the school’s hall in 2018, and played college football at Boston College.
Her twin brother, Nick, is on the school’s baseball, basketball and football teams, and shares a unique bond at home. Smith said her mom — a former distance runner herself — is her biggest fan and is at every meet she attends. Someday that will be at a competitive university if it all comes together.
“It’s fine because we can hang out with the same people and we’re the same age,” Smith said. “Sometimes when the house is dirty and we get home, we know when our mom walks in the door she’s going to say to clean up.”
Few enter high school with such high expectations as Smith. A state and regional champion who medalled nationally for the Danbury Flyers youth program, Smith had plenty of eyes on her before the first day of school.
“I saw her race in eighth grade at the O’Grady relays in the 800 she won,” Fraticelli said. “I could tell she was a talented kid. But that’s really it; I would hear stories and coaches would tell me last year, ‘You have the sprinter of all sprinters coming in.’ I was like, ‘OK, we’ll see.’ ”
All of that would culminate with a dominating debut during the indoor track season when the rest of the state would find out how good she is.
Or maybe not.
Instead, Smith continued with her other passion, cheerleading. Her nights were spent cheering on the school’s teams while helping the squad win a state championship in March. She was named all-state in that sport, too, and trained in a different form than she would for track.
“I did cheerleading and track in middle school, and I really liked cheerleading,” Smith said. “I didn’t plan on going anywhere with cheer but it was an activity I liked to do. I did want to do indoor my first year but I also wanted to do cheerleading.”
Despite going nearly a year between competitive meets, little rust was apparent. Like riding a bike, Smith was back into competitive form instantly and has only improved by focusing on the intricacies of the sport. The sky is the limit heading into the next three seasons as she hopes to continue to write her name into the school’s packed record books.
“We’ve done a lot of focus on form; my form wasn’t really that good,” Smith said. “But now in high school we’re working on it a lot and getting better at it. I think we just have to work hard at practice.”