Just as his competitors did, Luke Smorey faced some adversity in the javelin competition at the WPIAL Class AAA track championships last Thursday at Baldwin High School.
Smorey, a senior at Baldwin, dealt with steady and sometimes heavy rain, had to dance around puddles where he is typically accustomed to throwing, and had to shorten his runway in half by taking only five steps during his approach.
This was nothing new for Smorey, though. This wasn't the first time he had to throw in poor conditions this spring and the adversity was nothing near what he has had to face in recent years.
Smorey came out on top again, of course. He seemingly always does.
Smorey won his second consecutive WPIAL javelin title by heaving a winning throw of 193 feet, 1 inch, a distance that would be excellent in even ideal weather. Smorey's mark was more than 13 feet better than second-place finisher Corey Denlinger of Indiana, whose best throw was 179-7.
"It's awesome," Smorey said of winning back-to-back titles. "Winning my junior year was an amazing feeling. To have that title and defend it is an honor. To defend it successfully is great. I kind of expected to win, but to execute and throw well in that weather was a good accomplishment."
What makes the accomplishment even more outstanding is that Smorey's career nearly came to an end two years ago. In the summer after his sophomore year, Smorey contracted Group A Strept, a flesh eating bacteria that attacked his right elbow. Smorey could have lost his arm or even his life.
Smorey eventually made a full recovery, but that wasn't before some anxious moments, some of which had to do with him potentially not being able to continue his highly successful athletic career.
"As soon as it happened, I didn't think it was as bad as it actually was. But as the days went by, I thought to myself, 'What if this keeps me off the football field and off the runway?' [Not being able to play sports again] did cross my mind, but I knew I was going to be able to come back," Smorey said.
Just prior to the illness, Smorey finished third at the WPIAL championships and eighth at the PIAA championships in the javelin his sophomore season. As a junior, he won his first WPIAL title and placed third at the PIAA championships. Thanks to last week's performance, he has another gold medal and could once again place (top-eight finish) at this weekend's PIAA championships at Shippensburg University.
"I knew I would [bounce back from the health problem], but to go on and win two WPIAL golds and hopefully place three times at states is something I didn't expect. But it was always a goal," Smorey said.
Smorey also won titles this season at the Baldwin Invitational, Butler Invitational, South Hills Classic, and Tri-State Track Coaches Association championships. In addition, Smorey had a career-best throw of 201 feet at the California University Track Carnival.
Competing at the WPIAL championships for the final time, Smorey didn't seemed to be fazed by the miserable weather. His top throw not only earned him the title, but it was also good enough to seed him fourth at the PIAA championships.
"I think a 193 in some puddles and only a five-step [approach] was a quality throw," Smorey said. "I know all the other guys in the state threw on different days and I'm still seeded fourth, so going in I think I have a good opportunity."
Smorey is also an outstanding football player who ranked fourth in the WPIAL in receptions his senior season and was named to the Post-Gazette South Xtra Fabulous 22 team. He will attend California University and compete in track and field.
Saturday, Smorey will look to add the perfect ending to what has been a fantastic senior season and high school career by winning a state title.
"That was my goal going into the season," he said. "It's definitely something I've been working for, so we'll see if I can bring home the gold."