Class Acts: Antioch's speedy Smith engineers winning formula

  • Antioch's Charlie Smith has been named to the IHSA All-State Academic team.

    Antioch's Charlie Smith has been named to the IHSA All-State Academic team. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

Updated 4/18/2020 4:19 PM

Finish lines energize Charlie Smith.

So do Computer Aided Design and Drafting classes.


"I've taken a couple of CADD classes," said Smith, an Antioch senior who plans to study mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, where he will compete in cross country and track for the Yellow Jackets. "It's where you get to use like design programs to make stuff on the computer and then you eventually 3-D print it. You can laser cut, too. That's basically what a lot of mechanical engineers do. It's like an intersection between art, math and science that I think is really going to be satisfying for me. I'm really excited to see what I can learn about it."

Smith rarely slows down, even when he's not racing on an oval or hilly terrain. He was one of 26 student-athletes named to the IHSA All-State Academic team last month and is the first male from his high school to earn the honor. Sequoits graduates Erin Poss and Lauren Tiffany collected academic all-state recognition in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

Smith won the Class 2A state championship in cross country at Detweiller Park in Peoria last fall and was the state runner-up in the Class 3A 1,600 meters as a junior last May.

"He does an exceptional job at balancing his life," Antioch cross country and track coach Chris Bailey said. "He never lets anything overtake his schedule. He does a phenomenal job at balancing his academics, his running and his social life.

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"Also," Bailey added, "he is so positive. He never lets negativity bring him down. He had several reasons to get discouraged during his career. He battled through injuries, illness and the death of an assistant coach, but he always found a way to stay strong and not give up. He has not only been an inspiration to his teammates, but to me as his coach. He has made me better, and I love him like a son."

Smith is always looking for ways to get better. While he calls math his favorite subject, he's discovered that art complements his other academic interests.

"I really like drawing," said Smith, who's in an art class at ACHS. "The CADD classes I took introduced me to a lot of weird art that you can do with technology that I thought was really cool. A lot of it was sculpting different things on 3-D programs. It's very mathematical almost, which sounds weird, but it's really satisfying."

A member of the math team all four years at ACHS, Smith has been named an Illinois State Scholar and has been president of the school's Athletic Advisory Council, a school board liaison. He's done volunteer work at a local food pantry and other community agencies. He carries GPAs of 3.99 (unweighted) and 4.67 (weighted), and cranked out scores of 32 on the ACT and 1,430 on the SAT.


Antioch's Darcy Cook calls him "one of the most dynamic, talented and hardworking students I have encountered in 25 years as a school counselor."

Smarts runs in the family, so to speak, of Antioch's most valuable runner in cross country for the last four years and track for the last three. Smith's older brother Harry attended Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora and is now at Colorado School of Mines. Older sister Allison is a junior at Butler University, where she's studying speech pathology. Mom Jennifer is a former nurse. Dad Mark is a math professor at College of Lake County.

"He likes to say that he passed (his understanding of math) down to me," Smith said with a laugh. "I definitely believe that."

The expected announcement Tuesday that the IHSA will cancel the spring sports state tournament series due to the COVID-19 pandemic means Smith won't have a chance to win his first state title in track, nor break Antioch's school records in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs. He flirted with breaking both marks last season. He missed setting the 3,200 record by 1 second.

"At the time last year," Smith said, "I was like, 'Oh. I'll just get it next year.' "

IHSA spring sports season or not, he plans to keep pushing himself.

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