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USA TODAY High School Sports Awards honoree Sammy Smith a rising star on, off field of play

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When you think of Boise High School (Idaho) student-athlete Sammy Smith, one of the words that comes to mind is versatility. 

Smith burst upon the landscape during her freshman year, earning the Idaho High School Activities Association's 1,600-meter run and 3,200-meter run titles at the Class 5A state meet - while helping the Brave to a first-place team finish. Thanks to her efforts, in August, Smith was a finalist for the USA TODAY High School Sports Awards Rising Star honor. 

If that isn't enough, Smith, who has maintained a 4.0 GPA in the classroom, also competes in soccer, track and field and skiing while also finding time to establish a charity for underprivileged youths and performing volunteer work. 

"Obviously, I was very honored and humbled to be selected as a nominee for the award," Smith said with regard to the Rising Star plaudit. "I'm going to go out there and try my hardest. Regardless of what the result ends up being, I want to walk away from it knowing that I left everything I had out on the course or field of play."

More: Nation's top high school athletes, coaches and teams named at the inaugural USA TODAY High School Sports Awards show

Smith observed her sister's involvement in cross country and gravitated to the sport. She noted she enjoys the purity of running and is looking forward to helping the Brave notch its fourth consecutive cross country state crown while eyeing the national stage. 

"I'm super excited for this year," Smith said. "We have a ton of returners, so hopefully we'll have a really successful season and state meet. And I think we're all collectively looking forward to hopefully running at NXR (Nike Cross Regionals) and qualifying for NXN (Nike Cross Nationals), if it happens. All of us have hoped to get on that national stage and have an opportunity to race some of the best in the country."

Boise High School Girls Cross Country Head Coach Aaron Olswanger said Smith is focused, works hard and the accolades are well-deserved. 

"She came in as a freshman and lit the world on fire," he said. "It's been great to see her grow and develop over the course of the last year and over this summer. She's an even better athlete this year, and I'm super excited to see where this leads her. We return six of our top seven girls from the state meet, so we're pretty optimistic coming into the season." 

Fully aware that few athletes possess the ability to transition to a myriad of sports and compete at a high level, Smith said she "loves the chaos" of different things. 

"I'm running cross country this fall and I have high school soccer," she said. "During the winter I actually move up to Sun Valley (Idaho), which is kind of a small ski town. So about four months I basically ski. When I return in the spring, I'm involved in track and then club soccer. I like not focusing on one thing, but getting to do a bunch of different sports."

Smith offered a breakdown of each of her athletic endeavors:

"With soccer, track and cross country, obviously, there is a lot of running involved," she said. "And with soccer it's primarily a ton of fast twitch, short sprints and acceleration. You're not really dealing with the endurance aspect like cross country. I freestyle ski and Nordic ski. Nordic skiing is both aerobic and anaerobic training and it's great for focusing on maintaining and improving fitness."

Amid the scholastic and athletic pursuits, Smith finds it essential to give back. Hence, the creation of GO BIG, Inc. 

"It's a charity that my siblings and I created during the heart of the pandemic," she said, noting the organization donates shoes, clothing and athletic equipment, and it has designs on a book drive once it is feasible to execute. "We feel so grateful for all of the opportunities we have in our lives, so we wanted to try and give back to our community - giving less privileged kids an opportunity to participate in sports, excel and do things they generally wouldn't be able to do because of their circumstances."

Volunteering at shelters and food banks is also on Smith's agenda. 

"When I have time, I really enjoy baking, so we bake some things and drop them off at various shelters," she said. "I'm very fortunate to have the life that I have and I think it's always important to recognize other people don't always have that. I want to try to help them in a way that brings joy."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: USA TODAY High School Sports Awards honoree Sammy Smith a rising star on, off field of play

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