In an Illinois State indoor track & field season that was full of success, Kameesha Smith soared above the rest.
The senior high jumper reached new heights in 2021, twice breaking a nearly three-decade old school record on her way to the Missouri Valley Conference Most Outstanding Field Athlete award. She led the Redbird women’s indoor team to their fourth consecutive indoor MVC title, the first women’s team in conference history to do so.
“We all worked hard to get what we deserved.” Smith said, “We kept pushing each other, every step of the way. The motivation is what keeps us going. It’s up to us to push each other in the weight room, on the track, in the classroom — we just push, all day long.”
Smith has been with the Redbirds since the 2017-18 indoor season. The South Holland, Illinois, native says Illinois State track and field’s culture is what stuck out years ago as she came out of high school.
“I’m very family-oriented.” Smith said, “When I came here, it felt like a home away from home. It felt like I just fit right in.”
Kameesha flew over the competition in her senior season.
On Feb. 12 at Grand Valley State University, Kameesha cleared 1.82 meters for her personal best, breaking Tiffani Archey’s previous school record of 1.81 meters set in 1992. On Feb. 28 at the MVC Indoor Track & Field Championships, she topped herself by getting to 1.83 meters as she won her second-straight indoor conference high jump title.
“I progressed throughout my season.” Smith said, “Each week, I was getting better, jumping higher and doing what I came here to do. I worked hard for what I got.”
Smith praises head coach Jeff Bovee, assistant coach Daniel Gooris, strength and conditioning coach Ryan Swenson and the rest of the Redbird coaching staff for all they do for the team. She credits their support as what keeps her going as she sets goals and heads into this weekend’s National Collegiate Athletic Association Indoor Track & Field Championships and the upcoming outdoor season.
“With the outdoor season, I just set a new goal for myself — 6-3 feet (1.92 meters).” Smith said, “Originally, my goal was 6-0 feet (1.83 meters) and when I achieved it, I immediately set a new goal. Hopefully I can achieve it in the outdoor season with that extra bit of wind.”
Through personal and team achievement, Smith has always remained grateful for those who push and bring out the best in her. She asked to shoutout her grandmother, Irma Jean. Just like when she picked ISU, she believes family is always what matters.
The NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships can be seen the weekend of March 12 on ESPN3. Smith will be competing in the high jump at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 12.