A FUTURE SEAHAWK. Franklinton High School state champion high jumper Rebekah Smith has signed a letter-of-intent to continue her track and field career at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.
FRANKLINTON -- Rebekah Smith was never able to defend her Girls High Jump title at the annual Class 3-A State Track and Field Championships.
But Smith's jumping career is far from over as she has signed a letter-of-intent to join the Division I track and field program at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.
Smith was a four-year standout at Franklinton High School and will go down as one of the best all-around athletes Franklin County has produced over the past 25 years.
Not only did Smith flash state championship excellence for the Lady Rams, she also starred in volleyball and girls basketball -- and had collegiate offers in both of those sports.
But in the end, Smith's best potential is flashed in track and field, especially the high jump pit.
"I would put Rebekah right in there with some of the better athletes we have had in the county,'' said FHS track and field head coach Clennie Wilkins. "Truth be told, she could have excelled in more events, but we specialized with high jump because she was involved with other sports.
"When you win a state championship, it puts you up there with greats like Charity Snelling, Tainasha Vines and Vanisha Wilshire.''
Smith was an instant high jump star as a freshman at Franklinton, finishing in fifth place in the state meet that campaign.
Smith went one step upward in the 10th grade, taking fourth place. But the pinnacle came last year when Smith followed Snelling's FHS path by winning a state championship with a jump of 5-4.
Smith was unable to compete for back-to-back titles, though she did add to her lofty list of accomplishments by winning the State Indoor Championship in February.
"It's heartbreaking she didn't get a chance to get another (crown),'' Wilkins said. "But at least she did get the one in indoor. It's heartbreaking not just for her, but for all of our athletes.''
Before the track season even started, Smith cemented her status as an all-time great, both at Franklinton and Franklin County overall.
That said, Wilkins was expecting Smith to earn another championship as her heights, work ethic and competitive drive continued to improve with each passing day.
"Volleyball has kind of been the sport she loved the most, but I think Rebekah has really started to fall in love with track as a senior. As strange as it sounds, I thought this spring was going to be a breakout season for her. Each year, she seems to go for it more. She has gotten a more aggressive nature on her jumps -- even to the point where she is very disappointed when she doesn't have a good day at practice.
"She did not do that as much as a freshman or sophomore. I think she has started to realize the potential she has.''
After sifting through several collegiate options in three different sports, Smith opted for UNC-Wilmington, which competes in the D-1 Colonial Athletic Association.
Anna Moss, another multi-sport standout at FHS, enjoyed a four-year stint with the UNC-W volleyball squad before graduating last year.
"UNC-Wilmington really has very big plans for Rebekah,'' Wilkins said. "I talk to their coach once or twice a week -- they cannot wait to get her down there.''