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Appalachian State's April Smith traveled to Columbia as the head women's throws coach for the 2013 Pan-American Games
Courtesy: TBD
Smith Coaches USA to Gold
Courtesy: Appalachian State Sports Information
Release: Tuesday 09/10/2013 (ET)
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BOONE, N.C. – Appalachian State University track and field assistant coach April Smith returned from the 2013 Pan-American Junior Championships on Monday after representing the United States as the head throws coach.

Smith returned from Medellin, Columbia after seeing her throwers earn two gold, two silver and one bronze medal.

“It was an incredible experience,” said Smith. “I don’t think that I could have had a better women’s coaching staff or better athletes to work with.”

Smith spent the week as a mentor to her athletes, who were away from their coaches during an incredibly high level competition.

“I made sure the athletes were at their practices and helped if they needed any coaching or had any questions,” said Smith. “One of the hardest parts about this experience was the fact that the athletes aren’t really your kids. You don’t know their cues or what they need because you haven’t coached them for long.”

“One of the things I would do is videotape practices and then put them online. The athletes’ coaches at home could see the videos and send back notes and things to work on for them,” said Smith. “I think it was really helpful and helped make the athletes more comfortable in such a different environment.”

Another aspect of Smith’s guidance was to mentally prepare her athletes for the contest.

“Part of my job was to mentally reassure them that their bodies were ready to compete and they would be fine,” Smith said. “I tried to keep them calm and tell them not to worry.”

The USA team arrived in Columbia three days before competition in order to practice, get used to the climate and adjust to the time change. One of the most difficult things to adjust to was the elevation, which was over 6,000 feet.

Smith’s week began with the opening ceremonies on Thursday night, where each of the competing countries came together to celebrate the beginning of the Pan-Am Championships. The coaches and athletes were able to interact with people from all over the world.

“One of the best parts was making connections with people from all of these different countries,” said Smith.  “I think that’s what track and field is all about. The games focused on camaraderie, instead of looking at all of the teams as the enemy.”

The shot put competition began the next day, with Coach Smith’s two qualifying athletes receiving first and third place.

The discus and hammer contests followed on Saturday, resulting in two silver medals and two fifth-place finishes for the United States.

One of the highlights of Smith’s week was on Sunday during the javelin competition.  The USA’s only competitor, Megan Glassman, won gold and broke the Pan-American Games record while being voted Athlete of the Meet.

“The medal ceremonies were incredible,” said Smith. “Being able to see my athletes standing there with the American flag wrapped around them, with the national anthem playing was everything I thought it would be.”

“That was always one of my goals, to be on top of the podium, representing my country and it was just as great of a feeling to be the coach of the kids who got to do that. It was such an honor and such an incredible feeling to be chosen to coach some of the best athletes in the country.”

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