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'Dream' season has Hortonville's Smith among the top throwers in the nation

Hortonville junior Ben Smith set a state record in the shot put earlier this season and next week hopes to repeat as a WIAA state champion.
Posted at 10:45 PM, May 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-25 23:45:16-04

DE PERE, Wis. (NBC 26) — After winning a state titles in shot put and discuss as a sophomore, Ben Smith knew more big things were coming in 2023.

He never could have imagined how big they would get.

"I would say outstanding," Smith said, smiling, when asked to describe his junior season. "Very happy with it."

"It's still a dream," Smith's father and throwing coach, Bob Smith, said. "It's hard to fathom it."

The Hortonville junior, who just turned 17 last month, has far surpassed his annual goals.

Earlier this month, he tossed the shot put 68 feet and 10.5 inches, a Wisconsin high school record and the best this season by a high-school athlete in the entire country. That's up nearly 10 feet from last year's state-title winning throw of 59 feet and four inches.

He's not bad in the discus, either. In early May, Smith recorded a personal best of 209 feet and 11 inches, more than 30 feet better than last year's state title-winning toss.

Hortonville head coach Kevin Sours called the achievements "quite rare," especially considering throwing events are typically dominated by upperclassmen.

It's also brought quite a bit of attention onto Smith, although you wouldn't know it from the way he carries himself.

"The pressure? I don't know, I think he's handling it quiet well." Sours said. "The camera is on him. Little kids are coming up to him, asking him for his autograph."

It's safe to say the apple didn't fall too far from the tree.

Smith's father, Bob, is a former thrower himself. In fact, he qualified for the NCAA Tournament as a redshirt freshman at the University of Wisconsin, where he competed from 1995-99.

Ben said he was driven to break his dad's personal records from high school, and he's already done that with ease.

"It was amazing," Ben said. "I always wanted to break those so doing that at this age, very happy with it."

Bob said there were no mixed emotions when his son surpassed him.

"It was all pride," Bob said. "We knew it was happening... It was just a matter of when it was going to happen. He blew me out of the water."

It's a result of the hard work both Smiths have put in for years on end.

"I would says he's the greatest mentor I have right now," Ben said. "Yes he is my father so that means a lot to me, but it means even more that he's willing to coach me and take that time through thick and thin. Through all the frustrations."

In a dream season like this, those frustrations have been harder to find.

It's happened fast, but it's clear the sky is the limit for Ben.

"Man after this season, I couldn't tell you (how far he can go)," Bob said. "I always had sort of a progression in mind and he's exceeded that in the shot by about three to four feet and in the disc by about 10 feet so... I don't know.

"It will be very interesting to see," he added.

For now, Ben has the attention of the top college track and field programs in the country. He said his top three choices would be Oregon, Kansas and Arkansas - all top-tier programs.

Hortonville competed in a WIAA track and field sectional held at West De Pere high school. Click here for links to results from sectionals across the state.