Michelle Smith, a junior at Montverde Academy, broke 60 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles not once but twice at the Bob Hayes Invitational on Saturday in Jacksonville. An impressive feat as the 400-meter hurdles is considered one of the toughest and physically draining events on the track and breaking 60 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles at the high school level is a great challenge in itself only for the elites. With the meet having a preliminary qualifying round and finals on the day, Smith opened up her 2023 outdoor season with a national leading time of 59.02 in the prelims to be the top qualifier heading into the finals.
Video: Michelle Smith's US #1 59.02 season opener in the 400-meter hurdles prelims at the Bob Hayes Invitational.
In the finals several hours later at the University of North Florida's Hodges Stadium, Smith broke 60 seconds again dominating the finals field easily with a 59.24 performance. Smith, a fifth-place finish in last summer's World U20 Championships as a high school sophomore owns the Florida high school state record in the event from that race with her personal best time of 57.48.
Smith, originally from the U.S. Virgin Islands and the island of St. Croix, is definitely one athlete already well-adjusted and familiar with the 400-meter hurdles as the state of Florida transitions this year from the 300 and 400-meter hurdles as its commonly contested championship event.
Video: Michelle Smith winning the girls 400 meter hurdles finals at the Bob Hayes Invitational in a time of 59.24.
She was just coming off finishing her indoor track season in which she earned All-American honors at New Balance Nationals Indoor in the 400-meter dash (4th, 54.81) and ran a personal best of 54.37 in the prelims. Smith also won the 600-meter run at the Millrose Games in early February with a time that ventured her into US top 10 all-time territory at 1:29.52.
Smith also excels at the 800-meter run outdoors with a 2:10 personal best from last year's Florida Relays. Her mother was an NCAA indoor national champion at Eastern Michigan University in the event and would not be surprised to see her join her mother venturing into the 2:00's range this spring at some point.