John Smith, one of the top sprinters in UCLA history and regarded as one of the world's top sprint and hurdle coaches, enters his 17th season as a Bruin assistant. Last November, Smith attended the USA T&F "Meeting of the Minds" Summit, to meet the challenge of developing the sport on an elite level.
Last summer was one of the highlight years during Smith's coaching tenure as his HSI athletes turned in medal winning performances at the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Austrialia. Maurice Greene won gold medals in the 100m and 400m relay, along with teammate Jon Drummond in the 400m relay. Ato Boldon, who as a Bruin won NCAA Outdoor titles in the 100m in 1996 and in the 200m in 1995, won a silver medal in the 100m and a bronze in the 200m. Greene was rated the world's No. 1 male track and field athlete by the IAAF in its World Rankings.
In 1999, at the collegiate level, UCLA's 4 X 400m relay (Michael Granville, Terrence Williams, Malachi Davis, Brian Fell) won the NCAA Outdoor championship, in a time of 3:02.12 (No. 4 in school history). In world-class competition, two of his HSI athletes, Greene and Inger Miller, were the best in the world in their events. Greene set a new World Record (9.79) in the 100m and he became the first male athlete to win both sprints and anchor the winning U. S. 4 X 100m relay at the same World Championships. Also at the World Outdoor, Miller won the 200m and placed second in the 100m. At the USA Outdoor, Greene won the 200m and Miller the 100m crown. For their efforts in `99, Smith was named the USA Track and Field Coach of the Year, while Greene and Miller both earned the Jesse Owens Award, given annually to the top track and field athlete in the U. S.
In 1998, Smith coached the world's No. 1 ranked sprinters in both the 100m (Greene, 9.90) and 200m (Boldon, 19.88). At the national level, Gentry Bradley won the 200m at the USA Outdoor. At the collegiate level, UCLA's 4x100m relay (Fell, Brandon Thomas, Damian Allen, Jim McElroy) placed fourth at the NCAA Outdoor (38.96, No. 2 in school history) and won the Pac-10 title.
In 1997, his HSI sprint club produced two world champions -- Greene in the 100m (9.86) and Boldon, in the 200m. In '97, Boldon was ranked No. 5 in the world in the 100m and No. 2 in the 200m, running 9.87 and 19.77, respectively. Bradley, a '96 Bruin graduate who was ranked No. 6 in the U.S. in the 200m, won that event at the World University Games. In February '98, Greene set the world indoor 60m record (6.39) at the Madrid, Spain International meet.
Nineteen-ninety-six was a banner season for Smith-coached athletes. On the international level, Boldon competed for Trinidad at the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. He won two bronze medals in the sprints and was ranked No. 4 in the world in the 100m and No. 3 in the 200m. Another Smith-coached athlete, France's Marie-Jose Perec was a double gold medal winner in the Olympics, winning both the 200m (22.12) and 400m (48.25, Olympic record). Collegiately in 1996, Boldon won the NCAA Outdoor 100m (9.92). He and Bradley, who placed second in the NCAA 200m, ran on UCLA's 4x100m relay that also placed second at the NCAA. At the '96 Pac-10, Boldon, for the second year in a row, won both sprints (100m-10.03, meet record; 200m-20.00, Pac-10, UCLA, meet and stadium record).
In 1995, Boldon, then a UCLA junior, won the NCAA 200m championship in a track record mark of 20.24. At the 1995 Pac-10, he became the third Bruin in the last four years to win both the 100m (10.08, meet and stadium record) and 200m (20.08, stadium and school record, second-best time in Pac-10 history). Boldon stepped up another notch in the summer of '95 when he placed third (10.03, same time as second-place finisher, Bruny Surin of Canada) in the 100m at the World Championships in Goteborg, Sweden.
At the collegiate level in 1994, Bruin senior sprinter Marcus Reed won both the 100m (10.47) and 200m (20.57) and ran the third leg of UCLA's winning 4x100m relay (39.69) at the Pac-10. Reed also earned All-America honors twice in 1994, including a 6.26 in the 55m at the '94 NCAA indoor. Internationally in 1994, Smith coached Dennis Mitchell and Drummond to Nos. 1 and 3 in the Track & Field News 100m world rankings.
In 1993, Smith coached Bruin All-American Kevin Young to the 400m hurdles World Championship crown in Stuttgart, Germany. At the collegiate level in the 1993 Pac-10 championships, sprinter Derrick Baker competed in four winning events (400m, long jump and both relays), and hurdler Ross Flowers won the 110m hurdles and ran the second leg of UCLA's winning 400m relay.
At the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Smith coached Quincy Watts and Young to gold medals. In the 400m, Watts, who was also tutored by former Bruin head coach Jim Bush, won with a then-Olympic record 43.50 and won a second gold running the second leg of the USA's world-record setting 1600m relay (2:55.74). Young became the first man in history to run the 400m hurdles under 47 seconds, winning the gold medal with a world-record time of 46.78. Also in 1992 at the collegiate level, UCLA's 1600m relay placed sixth (3:04.71) at the NCAA outdoor, earning All-America honors for Mike Stevenson, Michael Williams, Baker and Marty Beck. Beck also placed second (49.80) in the 400mIH at the NCAA and seventh (49.59) at the Olympic Trials. Tony Miller became the fifth Bruin in history to win both the Pac-10 100m (10.18) and 200m (20.51).
At UCLA in 1991, Steve Lewis won the 400m at the TAC, NCAA and Pacific-10 Championships.
The year 1988 was record-breaking for Smith's UCLA athletes. At the Summer Olympics in Seoul, S. Korea, Lewis won the gold in the 400m and 1600m relay; Danny Everett won the bronze in the 400m and gold in the 1600m relay; Young finished fourth in the 400mIH; and Michael Marsh was an alternate on the U.S. 400m relay. At the 1988 NCAA Championships in Eugene, OR, the Bruins' 1600m relay (Lewis, K. Young, Everett, Henry Thomas) set a collegiate record which still stands with a winning mark of 2:59.91, the first college 1600m relay to ever run under 3:00.00.
A fine all-around athlete, Smith is still the world record-holder in the 440-yard dash. On June 26, 1971, running in an AAU meet in Eugene, OR, Smith ran a 44.5, 440-yard dash that 28 years later is still a world-record. Smith came to UCLA in 1969 from Fremont HS in Los Angeles. During his three-year prep career, Smith was the city champ in the 440 yard dash (47.5), long jump (24-5) and on an 880-yard relay team.
But Smith's track stardom had just started by the time he was a freshman at UCLA. He participated on two Bruin squads that were NCAA team champs in 1971 and '72.
Individually, Smith was the 1972 NCAA champ in the 400m (44.5) and the 440-yard dash (45.3) champ in 1971 and ran on four (1969-72) championship mile relay teams. In the Pac-10, he was on two UCLA league championships (1970, '72) and was the conference's 440-yard (45.9) titlist in 1970. In all, during his UCLA years, he was on four American- record one-mile relay teams (the only collegiate runner on those relays) and holds the NCAA and world records in the 440. Smith also was a Pan American gold medalist in 1971 in the 400m and 1600m relay.
These accomplishments resulted in his ranking as the No. 1 quarter-miler in the world in 1971. He was a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team in Munich.
After the Olympics, he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys and remained with the club until 1974.
From 1975-80, Smith continued to rank as one of the world's most talented sprinters. From 1975-76, he was one of the world's top quarter-milers in the International Track and Field Association circuit. From 1978-79, running pro track in Melbourne, Australia, he broke every professional record in the 400 meters, 440 yards, 500 meters, 500 yards and 600 meters.
Smith, 50, remained an active track participant until 1980, when he incurred an Achilles tendon injury that required two surgeries. That season he had run the fastest indoor time in the 400m.
In addition to his coaching duties that keep him in the Los Angeles area, Smith also has an acting career in television and motion pictures. Smith is married to the former Alecia Molezion, and they have a daughter, Noelle Dominique, 15.