Jessi Smith was a snap of the fingers short of the Class C record in the 800 meters at the 2014 state track meet.

That .11 seconds has lit a fire under the Bayard junior, who now has even higher aspirations after last year’s 2:15.27.

“I want the Nebraska state 800 record,” she said. “It’s a lot but I feel like I can do it.”

She’s less than seven seconds away from that time of 2:08.84 by Alice Schmidt of Elkhorn in 1999, so to reach it she’ll need to change her diet, work harder and keep her eye on the prize, she said.

No slacking, as if that’s ever a problem. Besides, running the 800 just makes her happy.

The three-sport athlete is one of those you come across very few times in a career, Bayard coach Randy McKibbin said.

“There is nothing she can’t do,’’ he said. “She does everything. She’s just amazing.’’

Smith won the 400 (58.43) and the 800 at state last year, and was the anchor on the 400 relay (51.37) that finished second to Ravenna. She’s also a strong hurdler and was among the western Nebraska leaders in seven events.

Off the track, the honors student is preparing for the state speech tournament, as well as participating in honors choir and Destination Imagination, a creative problem-solving group.

She placed seventh at state in Class D in cross country in the fall and won the hustle award this winter on the Bayard basketball team.

Her busy schedule has been driving her a little crazy lately, but it doesn’t mean she’s taken her eye off the prize. She has huge motivation.

Last year, she dedicated her season to a close family friend, Blaine Quick, who died from ALS. It’s important for her to do well again for him this spring.

“I wasn’t there but he told my dad when he could still use his eyes to talk on the talking machine that he wanted me to keep pushing and never give up,’’ Smith said.

She’s already running much better at the start of practices than she was halfway through the season last year, McKibbin said. The Tigers open the season Saturday at the Chadron Indoor Invitational, and Smith will compete in the 55-meter hurdles, the 800 and the 640 relay.

McKibbin is a little afraid to talk about Smith’s quest, citing the Sports Illustrated jinx. He thinks Smith could have gotten the Class C record if she’d been challenged at state, but she was well ahead of the field.

“It would have been nice to have her run with some other people,” he said. “It is what it is.”

He’s all about goal-setting, though.

He likes members of the team to set them on a weekly basis and write them down where they can be seen. He’ll write down his own goal for each Tiger, and they’ll talk about how they can be accomplished.

That fits in perfectly with Smith’s personality. She ran more throughout the summer and basketball season to get ready for track.

“I feel so much better this year than I did last year. I feel mentally prepared and physically prepared,’’ she said. “I know exactly what I want and I’ve been working this whole year to get there.”

Most of McKibbin’s track team attended a memorial service Thursday for former coach and Athletic Director Jim Hohnstein.

He died this week at the age of 67 after some health complications.

He came to Bayard in the fall of 1971. He coached girls and boys basketball and helped with the track team before becoming head girls coach in 1980. He was also the athletic director from 1985 to 2006. Even after retiring, he came back to help with the squad.

It was an emotional day, McKibbin said.

“Most all of those years (he coached) were represented by at least one person,” McKibbin said.

Memorials may be sent to the Bayard girls track team or the Joyful Noise Daycare.

Contact the writer:

402-444-1034, marjie.ducey@owh.com

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