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New Oxford's Smith commits to Penn State

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Less than two years ago, Madi Smith was attempting to throw a javelin for the first time.

Now, the New Oxford senior is going to compete in the event in the Big Ten.

A member of the Colonials track and field program since her sophomore year, Smith recently accepted a partial scholarship at Penn State and will begin competing for the Nittany Lions next season. She will throw the javelin and could also compete in the hammer throw.

"At this point, it's still surreal and it hasn't hit me yet," Smith said. "I never imagined that this is where I would be right now, but I've had a great group of people around me and it's a weight lifted off my shoulders."

The YAIAA javelin record holder with a mark of 147 feet, Smith didn't seriously consider throwing in college until last summer after she finished third at the Class 3A state championships as a junior. She looked at a number of schools including Eastern Michigan, Robert Morris, Pittsburgh and the Naval Academy, but eventually settled on Penn State.

Before she was recruited, Smith never thought she'd end up in Happy Valley. She never really rooted for the school's sports teams growing up and she thought the campus might be too big for her.

But her official visit in October sold her on the campus, and new Nittany Lions throwing coach Lucais MacKay convinced her to join the program. Smith added that a track and field camp she attended there at the end of her sophomore season also gave her a good impression of the team.

"I bonded well with the team, and (MacKay) is cool and really helpful," Smith said. "The whole visit he was helping me, seeing how I was and asking me questions as I watched them at practice. He's very knowledgeable, but he's fun at the same time. I think I will learn a lot."

While Smith will enter her senior season as one of the most accomplished track and field athletes in the YAIAA, she admits she still has plenty to learn. After all, she's still a relative newcomer to the sport.

Also a member of New Oxford's volleyball and swimming teams, Smith switched from softball to track in the spring of 2015 and immediately discovered she was a natural at the javelin. She set the school record in the event midway through that season with a mark of 117-11 and finished the spring as the silver medalist at the PIAA championships.

Her success continued last year, as she the league record and won the District 3 title in the javelin while also competing in the discuss and shot put. She'll go into this spring determined to win a state title after medaling the past two years.

'When I first picked up track it was just something to do," she said. "I joke around with people all the time about how I didn't know anything when I started. I really enjoyed it my sophomore year and when I saw what I did my junior year I knew I could make something of it.”

Smith credited current New Oxford throwing coach Steve Brown and former coach Jeff Topper as two people who helped her get to this point. She also thanked her family for giving her a dedicated cheering section at every meet.

"My first meet, my whole family was new to it and I think 12 of them came," Smith said. "Not many people watch the throwers and it's supposed to be a quiet area but they were yelling and cheering the entire time."