CARRINGTON, N.D.-Three generations Three trophies. One shared love of athletics.
Around a sunlit kitchen table a son, father and grandfather reflected on their accomplishments as student-athletes at Carrington High School and what the title 'Male Senior Athlete of the Year' meant to them.
Payton Smith, a former five-sport athlete at Carrington High School and May graduate, was nominated by the Carrington High School student body as the 2019 Male Senior Athlete of the Year. He accepted the award like his father, Kyle, had more than 30 years earlier and his grandfather, Ed, 28 years before that. The family is the first three-generational trio to have won the award.
Ed earned the title in 1957 following a high school career playing football and basketball. After high school, he continued his football career for one season at North Dakota State University. Ed said that although athletics in 1957 did not really compare to the programs in place now, he fondly remembers his time on the Carrington field.
"We only had two (sports) when I was back there and it wasn't anything like it is today. It's really changed," Ed said. "(I am proud of) being in a group of athletes who were all pretty good. We didn't excel like they do today-I mean it wasn't that great but it was a good bunch of guys."
Kyle, who is currently the co-head football coach at Carrington, was the school's top male senior athlete in 1985 after competing in football, basketball and track and field. He also played American Legion baseball in the summer months.
Kyle said his proudest athletic moment came just after his time at Carrington High.
"The summer after I graduated I was named the American Legion player of the year in baseball, then I went on to play college football, actually, at Valley City State," Kyle said. "I played for four years there and ended up to be a co-captain and a two-time academic All-American, so that I guess I am proud of."
Thirty-four years later-this spring-Payton followed in his grandfather's and father's footsteps. Payton participated in cross country, football, basketball, baseball and track and field. Payton said his father placed him into a variety of sports at a young age and that is where his love of athletics began. Consequently, it is also when basketball hoops and T-ball tees began appearing around the Smith household.
"Payton definitely was involved day 1 ... even as a little kid he was (outside) running around the house with boots on," Ed said. "At 5 years old he'd go running around the house-run after run after run-and so it's been there a long time."
Payton explained his family's prior success as Carrington's top senior athlete motivated him to chase the title throughout his high school career. The recent NDSU track and cross country commit gave Kyle and Ed many reasons to be proud during his time at CHS. Payton never missed a practice and competed at the state track meet all four years of high school. But Kyle mentioned one of the things he is most proud of his son for is graduating as an honor student and maintaining academic prowess while still competing at a high level of play.
"I think we're lucky to be in Carrington," Kyle said. "I think Carrington has a very strong tradition of being known (for) producing good athletes and Payton's class was no exception. He's been fortunate enough to have success in cross country, football, basketball, baseball and track, and that's pretty neat not only to do that but to have success in it individually and as a team."
It's an individual award, but it wasn't only Payton's individual talent and hard work that led him to succeed. Athletic success, Payton said, was largely because of the Carrington class of 2019 who pushed one another, wanted to win and wanted to strengthen their athleticism.
Payton's teammates will be changing come September and some, like Kyle, will miss Carrington's class of 2019. But for the Smith family, Payton's collegiate sports journey with the Bison is only just beginning.
"I am really excited," Kyle said. "He's talked about running at NDSU since he's been a seventh-grader and he's going to follow his dream and try (NCAA) Division I athletics.
"I think if you want to see how good you can be, NDSU's a good place to go."