Asbury Athlete Wins First Place in Fairness

Asbury University’s cross-country season doesn’t officially begin for several more weeks, but junior David Smith has made the news not only for an outstanding physical performance, but also for demonstrating that character and integrity have no “off” season. The following article appeared in The Advocate Messenger in Danville, Ky., and tells a story that represents the best of Asbury athletics: fierce competition and unshakable values.

By Mike Marsee

PLEASANT HILL — One wrong turn wasn’t enough to ruin Joe Pawlish’s wedding anniversary.

Pawlish and his wife can celebrate that anniversary in style with the prize he won Saturday in the (Un)Pleasant Hill Trail Run Series 5-Mile Trail Run, even though he wasn’t first across the finish line.

Asbury University Athletics
David Smith '15 and his family, including parents Dr. Ray and Stephanie Smith of the Class of 1983.

The Danville runner finished 42 seconds behind another runner, David Smith, after taking an unnecessary left turn in the final stage of the race that caused him to run an extra quarter-mile or so. But Smith, who took the same wrong turn but ran only 50 feet or so before getting back on course, told race officials that Pawlish should be declared the winner.

Pawlish had passed Smith with about a mile to go on the course at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, and he had a comfortable lead when he came within sight of the finish line.

“I saw him behind me for a while, and then I made a couple other turns and I didn’t see him behind me. That’s when I realized that I’d made some horrible mistake,” Pawlish said. “But he’s a very cool guy and gracious to (surrender first place), because some people would have taken it.”

Smith said he knew he didn’t deserve to win.

“I started out a little fast, and I got to the last little bit and I was dead mentally. To me, there’s two kinds of races: the fastest runner and the toughest mentally, and I thought he had it over me mentally, and he was faster than I was,” Smith said.

Asbury University AthleticsPawlish said there was only one explanation for his wrong turn.

“Stupidity,” he said. “It just was a stupid turn, and the sad thing is, this has happened a couple of times with me, being in the lead of a race and taking a wrong turn. At the end of a race, your brain starts to seize up, I guess.”

He still finished his 5-mile-plus run in 31 minutes, 1 second, saying he “probably tacked on another minute or so” in his detour.

Pawlish and Tamela Brown of Louisville, the top female finisher in 39:35, received prize packages that included lodging and dining at Shaker Village.

“Now I know where I’m taking my wife for our anniversary,” Pawlish said.

The two runners at the front of the field are both cross country runners, which was fitting for a race contested primarily over gravel trails. Pawlish, who moved to Danville from Haverford, Pa., earlier this year and was recently hired to teach chemistry at Washington County High School, once ran for Franklin and Marshall College, and Smith, who is from Wilmore, will be a junior on the team at Asbury University.

Cross country runners might have an edge in the races that are part of a growing running series at Shaker Village. The 5-mile trail run, which debuted four years ago with about 175 runners, was moved from fall to early summer this year, a half-marathon (13.1 miles) was introduced last year and will be contested again in November, and a 10-mile run has been added in September.

“We’re a little different than most of the races in the area because they’re trail runs, and we’re using all of the trails that we have here on the property,” Shaker Village property manager and naturalist Don Pelly said. “We’ve tried to lay each course out different to where (runners) get to see the property and what we have to offer and our great beauty here. People have always come to Shaker Village for the Shaker history; now they can come and get a little bit of natural history, see what we’ve done on the property, turning it into a nature preserve.”

Even when there are no races, the Shaker Village trails, which cover more than 30 miles of unlevel terrain, are becoming increasingly popular with runners.

“Usually early morning and later afternoon we’ll have runners every day, and then on the weekends. I would guess we probably on an average day have at least a dozen people out on the trails,” Pelly said. “And a lot of more serious runners come out here and train on the trails, because if you can train on these trails ... when you get on a flat course like a 5K you can really fly.”

Smith said he enjoyed the opportunity to run something other than a conventional 5-kilometer road race.

“Right now there’s mainly just road races going, and the fact that here’s a trail race and I can wear my spikes, I was excited about that. It’s just such a beautiful area, so when I saw that there was going to be a race out here, I jumped at the opportunity,” he said.

It was his first race at Shaker Village, but he said he has come here often to train. 

“There’s some good hills to work out on,” he said.

Pawlish, who is training for the Ironman Louisville race later this summer, has become familiar with those hills as well, saying he has run here “six or seven times” since moving to Kentucky in February. And he said there was one long hill, perhaps as long as half a mile, near the 4-mile mark where he was ready to make his move.

“That’s where I took the lead. I knew that hill well. When I was doing my training runs I would practice really cranking that hill, so that seemed to help,” he said. “You know you’re almost done, so I started cranking on that ... and it worked out good for me today.”

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