The Littlestown senior won the District 3 AA discus title last year and talks about how this year has been different. Zach Miller - GameTimePA.com
Scott Motter asked Bre Smith the question a year ago, even though he already had an answer in mind.
"What do you have planned after school?" the Littlestown track and field coach asked his discus thrower, then a junior, just about a year ago.
The pair spent an unusually long amount of time together this time last year, as Smith was the only Thunderbolts girl to qualify for the PIAA track and field championships. She had just won a District 3 Class AA title, which she will try to defend this weekend, and had the full attention of her coach as she prepared for states. In the regular season, Motter's focus and energy are spread out across the three or four dozen members of his team, and all of Motter's athletes and all of their different events pull him in many different directions.
Smith didn't know how to answer her coach's question, so Motter answered for her.
"I can see you working with kids," he told her. "I don’t know what you want to do, but I can see you being an elementary school teacher or a middle school teacher or something like that. And someday you’ll be coaching; you’re gonna come back to this."
As Smith prepares for what could be her final meet this weekend, it's clear that her coach was on to something. In the past year, Smith committed to Stephenson University to study elementary education, coached youth basketball teams in Fairfield and took on a tutoring role with the younger Littlestown throwers.
When a teammate sets a personal record, a huge smile breaks out on her face, and she jumps up and down clapping. It's a noticeable difference in her demeanor from the casual smile she carries after her own big throws.
“Bre is probably one of the most good-hearted kids I’ve ever been around," Motter said. "Not just in track, I mean ever been around. The girl cares more about other people and her friends than she does her own success. She gets more thrill from watching some of these other kids succeed from her help than from her own throws. Her success is just a cherry on top.”
Her style of teaching is simple: Keep an encouraging, positive attitude, and pass on the same tips her coach taught her.
“She’s always willing to help," said Smith's father, Jay, who helps coach the Thunderbolts throwers several days a week. "Since Day 1, when she’s learning something, she’s always willing to show someone else what she knew to bring them along so they could get better as well.”
It helps that Smith seems to have that quality that makes people like her. She was awarded homecoming queen in October, and she received the loudest ovation for any Thunderbolt when the team's seniors were recognized earlier this month.
“This year I realized that it might be the last time I throw the discus," she said. "I just wanted to give my knowledge and my support and love to my teammates because it’s hard. I’m not gonna be at Littlestown High School forever, throwing the discus, so I just want other people to know I support them and I’m always there to help them succeed.”
She's found that coaching not only helps her teammates, but also helps her throws. She hasn't broken her personal record, set last year, of 110-8, but she's thrown above 100 several times this season and hopes to break the school record of 111-8 at districts.
“I’ve learned about myself and what I have to do," Smith said. "It’s definitely boosted my confidence because it reassures me that I know what I’m doing and I know how to correct someone and I know what to tell them for them to understand how to get better.”
This weekend, she'll head to Shippensburg University as a defending District 3 champion looking to repeat. She needs to finish in the top two to advance to states and keep her career going for one more week.
No matter what, she's left a mark on her Littlestown teammates and has an idea of what she wants to do with the rest of her life.
“It’s been fun to watch," Motter said. "When seniors head out into the real world, you’re never sure what’s gonna happen to them. But you can see what’s getting ready to happen with her.”