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Parker Smith is the 2014 Fauquier Times Liberty Boys Athlete of the Year

Wednesday, Jul. 16 | By Brandon Hartman
Parker Smith was a member of the Liberty golf, lacrosse and swim teams. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Parker Smith used to be a little terror on the sidelines of his older brother Drew’s youth baseball games.

He would go to each of Drew’s games with a bat in one hand and a ball in the other. His game plan was simple: get a grownup to pitch to him. It was easy. All it took was a boyish grin and an innocent look.

Smith's Dennis the Menace routine soon had the pitcher ducking as a ball careened past their heads.

Needless to say, it was a fun game for Parker.

Copying his brother is what, according to Smith, helped mold him into the Fauquier Times 2014 Liberty Boys Athlete of the Year.

Smith excelled in golf, swimming, and lacrosse, and was named LHS MVP in all three.

All require vastly different traits to succeed in, placing Smith’s outstanding career in even greater context.

He was a Evergreen District champ in golf, the leading swimmer in the cool waters of the pool, and a quick, agile and undersized at 5-foot-6 scoring threat on the lacrosse team.

If Smith was at times conscious of his size, it didn't bother his coaches.

Liberty boys lacrosse coach Scott Girolmo noticed Smith’s athleticism the first time he saw him play lacrosse three years ago during Girolmo's initial practice, and was immediately impressed at the level of ability the smaller player showed.

“He really is a horse of a different color,” said Girolmo. “I had heard that Parker was a great golfer and swimmer before hand, so to see him do so well at lacrosse, I was really impressed. I was so happy to see the effort and tenacity he displayed and then played with in his career. I always root for the underdogs, but even though he lacked in size, I knew he would be special.”

At 5-6, 140 pounds, Smith's pads often looked like they were going to slide off. Plus, in a rough game like lacrosse, there's always the chance of getting your bell rung.

“I had to use speed and quickness to get around the big guys,” said Smith. “You have to use your brain when you’re smaller than most of the other players so that you can get yourself in good positions to score. I would still get hit a lot, but being faster than some of the other defenders minimized contact throughout the game.”

When the hits connected on his smaller frame, the results could be cringe worthy, sometimes leaving Smith airborne or sprawled out on the ground.

Parker's dad, Mike Smith, noted his son had to pay a dear price for his genes when Parker played lacrosse, and that it was almost a certainty that in every game Parker would get checked hard.

However, it almost was just as common a sight to see Smith hitting the back of the net..

“He was MVP for three teams, and probably the best player on all his teams throughout his four years here. I mean, he might just be the best student athlete Liberty has ever had,” theorized Girolmo.

“He’s good at so many things. Sports are so specialized now as kids all focus on one sport instead of trying to do all they can by branching out, we might never see someone like Parker again. He was special,” Girolmo said

“It was definitely time consuming doing all three sports,” admitted Smith. “I really couldn’t focus on one more than the other, or practice one year round. The sport I was playing at the time had to be my sole focus. I wouldn’t do it differently though, playing on different teams gave me something to do at all times and allowed me to meet a lot of people who I maybe wouldn’t have talked to. I’m really happy I was able to do it.”

The strong, silent type

Smith really might not have met some of his teammates if he didn’t competed with them, due to his laid back personality.

He was known as a man of few words to coaches and teammates, but it was often his actions that spoke loudest of all anyways.

“Parker was a quiet guy but was the perfect captain,” said Girolmo. “He was a catalyst for the team and led the way. He was the one who could make it happen for us. It really was a pleasure coaching and being associated with him.”

Allog with teammate Tommy Smith, who as named Battlefield Group Player of the Year, Smith was a bright spot on Girolmo’s 2014 team, which finished 1-12.

Despite the overall lack of team success, lacrosse turned out to be Smith’s favorite sport, and the impact of having to walk away from the game and his team after a season ending loss to Kettle Run surprised him by bringing unexpected tears to his eyes.

“It was a bad season but good at the same time,” said Smith. “We didn’t have the success we wanted but still had a good time fighting in every game. Losing against Kettle Run was rough because I knew it would be the last time I’d be on a field surrounded by my teammates and coach. They all meant a lot to me.”

Prior to that spring lacrosse season Smith was working hard in the pool for Liberty, which finished fourth in the conference.

With other teams, such as powerhouse Kettle Run, swimming with deep squads, Smith managed to help the team as the lone senior by leading the younger Eagle swimmers by example.

As a middle distance swimmer and key member on relay teams, Smith managed to still shine for the Eagles in his winter sport, being named the team MVP and getting to swim at regionals.

Out of the three sports he played, reaching the level of success he had in swimming was the most surprising for Smith, as he had not expected the impact he would have on the team.

“I have swam since I was four but stopped a little while ago and only just started doing it again in high school. I was able to get better at it with practice, and did well at regionals, but I knew it really wasn’t my best sport,” said Smith.

“It was still a good way to spend my time and was always exhilarating during competition, so I’m glad to have done it. It was a different type of sport then the others I played, and my height might have hurt even more so in swimming, since the prototypical swimmer is usually very long.”

Good times on the green

Smith's greatest achievements came in golf, a sport he'll play for Hamden-Sydney College.

Smith is a member of Fauquier Springs Country Club and grew up playing with his brother Drew.

As a junior Smith was Fauquier Times-Democrat Golfer of the Year after leading his team to the Evergreen District title with a stunning playoff upset of Kettle Run.

Smith shot 75 to win the Evergreen District individual title. He shot an 85 to lead the Eagles in the regional meet.

"His best traits come out under the pressure of competition," said LHS coach Mark Gorby after Smith's heroic year.

The Eagles suffered heartbreak in Smith's senior year.

They finished tied for first in the team competition, but a mistake on a scorecard forced a replacement score and a lower tally from another player on the team. In a flash, the 81 shot by the unlucky golfer was replaced by a 125, and the team went from tied for first to the middle of the pack.

Though it was unfortunate the Eagles couldn’t continue their reign on top of the conference, Smith followed up his district title the year before by winning the Conference 22 championship, shooting an even better score to dominate the competition. The 73 he shot was five shots better than the closest finisher and got him through with ease to regional play.

In the VHSL Region 4A North Golf Tournament, Smith suffered perhaps a more heartbreaking result than the one afflicted on his team just a few days before.

Topping his field of competitors in his region by shooting a strong 74, Smith still somehow didn’t do enough to reach the state competition, as six other golfers from different regions managed to narrowly score better.

The scoring finished so close that Smith missed out on states by one shot, needing a 73 to move on.

“It really sucks to tell you the truth,” said Smith. “One bad hole kept me from states. I wish I could do it differently but it’s done with now. All I can do now is go out to the courses and practice my shots to get ready for college.”

He can now make golf his sole attention.

“I try to play golf everyday if I can,” said Smith. “There is a lot to practice because there are many different strokes and skills in your all around game. I have to go from hitting range balls to putting and so on, so to practice it all obviously takes a lot of time.”

Playing at Hampden-Sydney as an invited walk on was a decision Smith didn’t make lightly.

Smith’s dad and brother Drew played baseball and graduated from Hampton Sydney, so the pressure to do the same made Smith take a minute to really make sure that it was a school that he wanted to go to himself.

"Parker took almost up until the last possible second to tell us his choice of school,” said Mike Smith. “He was pretty guarded about it. It got to the point where we had to corner him to find out what he was going to do. Obviously when we heard Hampden-Sydney was the choice it was pretty cool. His brother went there but also so did my older brother as well, so the school has been a big part of our family over the years.”

Smith was looked at by schools such as Roanoke and Lynchburg for lacrosse.

“I actually was pretty against going to Hampden-Sydney from the beginning just because most my family had gone there,” admitted Smith.

“I wanted to go to a place I could call my own so I could be different, but my visit to the school changed my mind. I loved the campus and the atmosphere, so my thoughts on the college took a 360 degree turn. Having the chance to play golf there was a big draw as well, so in the end it was what really I wanted to do.”

Smith leaves a reputation as one of the greatest and unassuming athletes in Liberty history, an athlete whose skills were as far-ranging as they come.

Now, it looks like he's a one-sport man.

“Heck, yeah it is a relief,” said a smiling Smith, whose golf game now takes center stage over lacrosse and swimming.

“I have no regrets though. I had a great time in high school sports, with some awesome teammates and coaches."

- - - - -

The Parker Smith File

Family: Mother Linda is the assistant principal at P.B. Smith Elementary School; father Mike works with heavy equipment; brother Drew, 23, is a Hampden-Sydney College graduate. sister Bailee, 27, lgraduated from the University of Virginia.

Home: Jeffersonton.

Favorite snack: Goldfish crackers. “I just think they’re really good.”

Favorite music: “I kind of listen to everything but country. I listen to rap before [competitions] to try to get me more pumped up.”

Favorite sports teams: Baltimore Orioles. University of Virginia lacrosse. “My sister went there, so I kind of just followed it.”

Favorite place to vacation: Bald Head Island, N.C. “We go as a family every summer.”

Favorite club: Driver. “I just like to see how far it goes.”

Favorite class: Science.

Future plans: “I’m going to go to college. I’ll probably end up playing lacrosse.....Probably finance or economics” as a profession.

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