May 20, 2022 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Smith combines love of running and charity

Keely Smith loves to run.


You see it in her Twitter handle which is keelyruns101.


You see it after talking to her for a while.


And you can see the passion that she has for running in her heart as well.
Smith, is a 2017 graduate of St. Joseph-Ogden High School, and is one of many former Spartan athletes to continue their athletic careers at the next level.


Smith competes at Maryville University, a Division II school in St. Louis.
Smith, who will be a junior next season, said that running for Maryville is different than competing as a Spartan.


“First of all, it’s very hilly down there and the fact that we race against much better competition than we did in high school makes it more challenging as well,” Smith said.


Over the past couple of years, Smith has become involved in the St. Jude Run, which is a charity event that raises money for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

In August, Smith and other runners will set out in segments from Champaign to Peoria to raise money for the organization, which goes toward looking at cures for childhood cancer and other diseases.


According to Smith, the event is very structured.


“We start out in Champaign and the race is split up in approximately 37 segments, ranging anywhere from three to six miles in length,” she said. “At least two runners will be on the course the entire time, and when we enter the city of Peoria by the Civic Center, we wait for the Memphis team and all go in together to watch the St. Jude Telethon live.”


While Smith was in high school, the SJO cross country and track teams started an event that has become an annual tradition. The team runs one mile per hour for 24 hours.


The event builds endurance, and Smith said, helps prepare her for events such as the St. Jude Run.


“When we ran the endurance event, it conditioned our bodies to stay up later, something that we need with the St. Jude Run because even though you’re not running constantly, you are running at different times, which can have an effect on your performance,” she said.


Smith was an integral part of several SJO track and field teams that brought home state hardware and while those days are behind her she said the team-first concept that the coaching staffs have put in place still benefits her.


“I think that it certainly helps that we had the championship experience here at SJO, because that made it somewhat easier to move on to the next level,” she said. “Many of my teammates at Maryville also came from successful programs, so that also makes the transition a little easier to know that everybody down there is geared toward the same goals.”


To donate to the St. Jude Run click here.

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