When Kaitlin Smith made the decision to make the long journey from Hawaii to HBU to join the track & field team, she thought she would be competing in more than one event during her time as a Husky, not realizing she would be competing in five events in one day or seven across two days, let alone becoming the school’s first-ever female track & field All-American by the end of her collegiate career.
In high school in Wailuku, Hawaii, Smith ran hurdles and did the long jump and triple jump. When it came to recruitment for college, she was told that pitching herself as a “multis” athlete would make her more valuable to college coaches.
“I thought being a multis athlete meant just more than one event,” said Smith. “So I thought, ‘Well, I can do that. I hurdled and jumped in high school so I’m good.’ Then I get here and all of a sudden I have to learn to throw the shot put. I’m thinking, ‘Are you kidding?’”
Despite having to learn a number of new events while also taking on the challenge of a college education, Smith has grown into one of the most decorated athletes in the University’s history.
She is a two-time All-American, an Academic All-America selection, Southland Conference Athlete of the Year, SLC Student-Athlete of the Year, and HBU’s first three-time Jan Edds Female Athlete of the Year, just to name a few.
Smith spent her first couple of years on campus getting the hang of all that the pentathlon and heptathlon entailed.
“My first two years were pretty rough but then, I guess I got the hang of it pretty quickly,” she said. “Total mistake, honestly, but it worked out for the best.”
As she got the hang of new events like the shot put, javelin, 200-meter dash and the 800 meters, she was also learning how to deal with the rigors of the multis. In the USA, high school athletes are not allowed to compete in multis like their international counterparts are.
During those first two seasons, Smith drew inspiration from Grace McKenzie, a multis athlete from fellow SLC member McNeese. McKenzie was a standout student-athlete for the Cowgirls who would win a conference title in the pentathlon or heptathlon while also competing in open events, sometimes even earning additional medals on top of her multis achievements.
“I originally had this impression that I was in multis because I wasn’t really good at one thing but could be above average at like seven different things. Then, one year at conference indoors I saw Grace (McKenzie) do the pentathlon and then everything in the open events,” she added. “So I thought, well, if she could be good at all five events then I could, too. Seeing what she was doing is what kicked me into the next gear to work harder.”
If evidence is needed of her ability to be excel in multiple events, Smith currently owns the program record in six different events.
Smith credits a strong summer dedicated to making big gains in the weight room following her sophomore year with also helping to propel her to the top of the podium at the SLC indoor championships in the pentathlon in 2020, just before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The following year, she again won the pentathlon at the conference meet and missed out on qualifying for the NCAA Indoor Championships by a total of three points, a minuscule amount when it comes to the pentathlon.
In the 2021 outdoor season, Smith became HBU’s first NCAA Outdoor Championship qualifier, heading into the heptathlon with the 22nd-best mark in the nation. She went on to place 13th and solidify her place as a second-team All-American, the program’s first. Smith also took the next step in indoor competition this past winter, making it a three-peat in the pentathlon at the SLC Indoor Championships and earning her spot at nationals. She placed 12th, picking up All-American honor number two.
In addition to her athletic excellence, Smith has been stellar in the classroom. She’s already earned a bachelor of science in kinesiology and a master of science in sports management and is working toward a master of education in higher education. To top it off, she owns a perfect 4.0 grade point average for her collegiate career and earned Second Team Academic All-America honors in 2021.
Smith competed in the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the heptathlon held in Eugene, Ore. from June 8-11.