Mira Costa girls cross country and track coach Renee Williams-Smith, right, with University of Pennsylvania-bound Abby Hong at the 2013 State Cross Country Championship. Photo by Jada Hong
Mira Costa girls distance running coach Renee Williams-Smith has been named the 2014 Inspiring Coach of the Year by the Brooks Running Company.
Brooks chose Williams-Smith from a group of 25 finalists – and only two from California — after current and former athletes, parents, fellow coaches, faculty and community members cast more than 45,000 votes via social media for the coach they found most inspiring.
“This award means the world to me,” said Williams-Smith. “Running makes me feel like the strongest version of myself, and I’ve tried to inspire that feeling in young runners since I started coaching. Knowing that I’ve made a difference for the kids at Mira Costa feels absolutely incredible.
“I just love the kids and am so blessed to be involved in their lives and help them in the sport I am so passionate about,” Williams-Smith said. “I had no knowledge of being nominated and found out that Eliza Davis, who is only a freshman, made a video and interviewed other runners and submitted it to Brooks. It was really touching and I feel so honored.”
Williams-Smith, or “Mama Reniz” as her athletes call her, is a pioneer female runner in Southern California. She stitched her own uniform to join the boys team when Mira Costa High School did not offer a girls program. Williams-Smith earned a full scholarship to run at Kansas State University and returned to Mira Costa to launch the girls cross country program.
During the spring season, Williams-Smith serves as a distance and assistant head coach on the Mustangs track and field team.
At Mira Costa, individualized attention and a specific focus on female runners’ health have defined Williams-Smith’s stellar career. “Don’t be afraid to be great,” Williams-Smith tells her athletes.
Along with building a foundation for competitive running for females, Williams-Smith was honored for her inclusive coaching philosophy and her steadfast commitment to young athletes who evolve into passionate lifelong runners, attracting new runners to the sport.
Each summer, Williams-Smith is race director for the Dick Fitzgerald Pier-to-Pier run, an event held during the International Surf Festival that helps fund Mira Costa’s cross country program. She then takes a group of runners for a week-long training session at Mammoth Mountain. The Mira Costa runners are joined by Palos Verdes High School runners, who are coached by former Mira Costa running standout Jeff Atkinson.
“Running is a sport of firsts. Whether it’s your first step out the door, signing up for your first race, crossing your first finish line or bringing home your first medal, achieving new things is in the DNA of our sport,” said Brooks Running CEO Jim Weber. “Renee’s track record of firsts in the running world and her passion to create opportunities for all young athletes to experience success in cross country and track inspired each one of us at Brooks.”
In honor of her 2014 Inspiring Coach of the Year Award, Brooks will give Williams-Smith and her Mira Costa Mustangs $10,000 in Brooks performance running gear and $2,500 cash to use for team expenses. Williams-Smith will also become a member of the Brooks Inspire Daily program comprised of coaches, elite runners and other running influencers. She’ll also get a trip for two to the 2015 Brooks PR Invitational, a national track meet that showcases the fastest high school running talent in the country.