It wasn't long after Kaila Smith was situated at Beaufort High School when something caught her eye in the school's trophy case.
The award recognized a past Gatorade S.C. Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Smith asked how to get it.
"I was like 'I'm going to get that,' " said Smith, a senior who graduated this spring. "I've wanted it all year."
She found the answer, mainly by working through her normal routine, and learned Wednesday she had earned the honor for herself. She became the fourth athlete from Beaufort High to win the award. Sierra Douglas (2002) and Dorothy Jenkins (1986) also won the girls award. Aulton Kohn (2003) is the only Beaufort boy to claim it.
Smith's best event, the 400-meter hurdles, propelled her to the award, which also includes academic and character considerations. She won the 400 hurdles at the Class 4-A state meet in May, posting the seventh-fastest time in the country at 1:00.87. She was unbeaten in the event this year, including a win at the prestigious Taco Bell Invitational.
"Everything just came together my senior year, which was pretty awesome," said Smith, who signed to run track at Coastal Carolina. "I just knew I had to work hard and show people I'm dedicated."
Smith doesn't seem to take a break from competition. She flies today to Nicaragua to run in the Central American Senior Championships.
She swept her events last month at the Central American Junior Championships in Costa Rica. Competing in the Junior A category for ages 18 and 19, Smith won the 100 hurdles, the 400 hurdles, the heptathlon and was a member of winning 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams. Her winning times in the hurdles and 4x100 set meet records. She was named the age group MVP.
She also will compete in the AAU Track and Field Club Championships in Orlando, Fla., and hopes for a trip to Colombia for the Pan American Junior Championships before orientation at Coastal.
The release announcing Smith's award also mentioned her 3.8 grade point average, efforts raising money for breast cancer research and a teen outreach program she helped organize through her church.