By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
USA Track & Field announced the election of Francie Larrieu-Smith to the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in Indianapolis, IN. The twentieth annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place in Orlando, Florida, on December 3 during USATF's annual meeting.
USATF is the United States governing body for track and field, distance running and race walking, with headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. Patricia Rico is USATF's president, and Craig Masback is its chief executive officer.
Eligible voters for the 1998 inductions included the Track and Field Writers of America, past Hall of Fame members, USATF Association presidents, chairmen of USATF standing sports committees and members of USATF's Athletes Advisory Committee.
Now competing as a master runner, Larrieu-Smith's open racing career spanned four decades, during which she set 35 American records, won 21 national titles, and became a member of five Olympic teams. At age 19, Larrieu-Smith ran the 1,500 meters in the Munich 1972 Olympics. She also ran the 1,500 meters in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, qualified for the Moscow Olympic team in 1980, and ran the 10,000 meters at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. In 1992, Larrieu-Smith qualified for the Olympic Marathon in Barcelona. Her teammates selected her to carry the U.S. flag during the parade of athletes at the Opening Ceremonies.
In the early stages of her competitive career, Larrieu-Smith focused on the middle distances, repeatedly setting American records from 1,000 meters to 2 miles. As her running matured, she moved up to the longer distances, finishing fifth in the 10,000-meters Olympic finals in Seoul in 1988, and a surprise qualifier for the Olympic Marathon in 1992, running the Houston Marathon in 2:30:39 at age 39. At one point or another, she was ranked nationally in every event from 800 meters to the Marathon.
Larrieu-Smith's contributions to distance running extended beyond the track and the roads. As National Honorary Chair for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, she lent her support to the Race For The Cure, and ran many of the series races wearing the number 1 bib. Sports podiatrist Janet Keeney-Valenza featured Larrieu-Smith in her video "Running Free of Injury".
In last October's Chicago Marathon, Larrieu-Smith led the 3:40 group for the US Postal Service Pacing Team. A few years ago, the staff of Runner's World magazine developed the idea of pacing groups to assist runners of every ability to qualify for the Boston Marathon, or just to achieve a personal record. A select group of experienced runners take charge of their runners, and guide them through the Marathon at the desired target pace.
Thus, with a personal record of 2:27:35 that she ran in 1991 at the London Marathon, Larrieu-Smith trained to run the Chicago Marathon in 3:40, the qualifying time for Boston for women 18 through 34 years old. Commenting on her preparation for Chicago, she admitted to training as seriously for a 3:40 attempt as she did for any other Marathon. Evidently, Larrieu-Smith gave every Marathon the respect that the distance of 26 miles 385 yards commanded.
On the personal front, Larrieu-Smith is married to Dr. Jimmy Smith, an Associate Professor of Kinesiology at Southwestern University, and they live in Georgetown, Texas. At Southwestern's Human Performance Laboratory, Smith conducts research on the factors limiting high intensity exercise. Smith is a competitive cyclist, and his father was a successful coach. Smith's life experiences and his professional specialization provide the ideal support for his wife's athletic career.
Larrieu-Smith's election into the USATF Hall of Fame is not her first induction into an athletic hall of fame. In 1987, she was inducted into the Road Runners Club of America Hall of Fame, in the same class as running legends Bill Bowerman, Oregon's long-time coach, and Don Cardong, 1976 Olympian and writer.
Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at email@example.com.