When he was in eighth grade at Messalonskee Middle School, Cole Smith was invited to Johns Hopkins University to be honored for his academic achievements. The only problem was, Smith had a soccer commitment.

Finding that balance between academics and athletics has always been important to Smith. Last month, Smith graduated from Messalonskee High School, tied for fifth in his class academically. Smith also was a member of Messalonskee’s soccer, hockey and track and field teams.

Smith’s achievements in the classroom and in his three sports made him the winner of the boys’ Academic Ace Award at the Varsity Maine Awards on June 26.

“For me, I know it’s kind of a cliche, but time management is really important. Obviously, you want to have time for your athletics. You want to have time for your school work. I’ve learned through playing club soccer, you’ve really got to balance that schedule,” Smith said after accepting the award. “Whether it’s 5 a.m. practice for hockey, or doing work whenever I can in class when there’s free time, to really get it done so I can have time to really enjoy myself and enjoy everything I do.”

Smith was a four-year starter for the soccer team. Coach Tom Sheridan saw Smith’s intelligence manifest itself on the soccer field in a number of ways.

“I know how (Smith) is in the classroom. He has a high soccer IQ. He’s another coach on the field. He’s been around the game. He knows the game,” Sheridan said.

Primarily a defender, Smith’s knowledge and soccer instincts allowed Sheridan to play him in the midfield as well.

“He’s a really good leader out there,” Sheridan said. “He was the leader of our defense out there. He understands the nuances of the game.”

The time management skills came naturally to Smith, he said. Driven to suceed academically and athletically while also having down time to relax with his friends was important to him. So he made the time.

“It came pretty easily, because a lot of academic stuff has come easily. It was more or less just trying to figure out as time went on what worked best, the best method as to how I can balance everything. As I went on, it kind of worked its way for me,” Smith said.

In the fall, Smith will attend Bridgton Academy for a postgraduate year, where he’ll continue his soccer career. Smith’s goal is to play soccer at a high-caliber academic school. After accepting his Varsity Maine Award, Smith mentioned Tufts and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as two possibilities, or schools in the New England Small College Athletic Conference.

Sheridan said whatever college Smith picks will get a standout person and athlete.

“He’s a fantastic kid. You wish you had a lot of Cole Smiths,” Sheridan said.


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