If you can’t beat them, join them.
That seems much the situation new Ruston High School track and field coach Morgan “Trey” Smith finds himself in.
Smith has served as head coach of the Ouachita Parish High School boys and girls track and field as well as cross country programs the past eight years, and early on in his OPHS coaching found himself on top of the Bearcats-Lions rivalry.
Smith said he just felt the timing was right to make the move west down Interstate 20 to Ruston.
“I feel like when these opportunities come open, I’m going to throw my name in the hat,” Smith said. “I know I had a good thing at Ouachita. But I feel good in that I’m leaving it a better place than it was when I got there.”
Smith said part of his desire to take over Ruston’s track and field programs was because he considers the city home.
“I ran track for Gary Stanley at Louisiana Tech from 2002-06,” Smith said. “I ran mid-distance and cross country. I came back in 2009-10 and kind of helped as a graduate assistant. Ruston was the first job I applied for after I got my alternative certification from Tech and I was working as a GA. At the time, (former RHS head track and field coach) Dave (Anderson) had just left the Ruston program — I have a pretty good relationship with Coach Anderson from those times, too.”
Smith was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, but attended Monroe’s River Oaks School from kindergarten through graduation.
“My dad was the big rice farmer in Richland Parish,” Smith said. “We were three-time state championships in the (Mississippi Private School Association, which River Oaks was a member of) league back then. I ran five different events and won at state.
“But I went to Tech to run the 800 and cross country. I walked on and as I got better I ended up with a scholarship. After (Hurricane) Katrina, my dad moved back to Corpus Christi and I ended up getting my Master’s from Texas A&M in biomechanics.”
After earning his Master’s degree, Smith said he called Stanley because he realized that he wanted to coach.
“As a senior at Tech I kept getting stress fractures in my ankles and couldn’t make it through the season,” Smith said. “So I helped Coach Stanley and got bit by the coaching bug then.
“Then when I got my Master’s I called Coach Stanley and he brought me in for two years and I got my alternative certification through Tech – the 21-hour program to get certified to teach. Because I had a big science background, I picked that to teach.”
In 2014, Smith took over as head coach of the Ouachita Parish High School track and field and cross country programs and slowly but surely turned things around for the Lions.
Smith got off to a strong start after taking over at OPHS, something he hopes to do again at RHS.
“The first four years I got Ouachita to the top — we won the region,” Smith said. “We won the region for the first time in Ouachita history. I’ve coached Gatorade Players of the Year. But despite those accomplishments, I’m more of the mentality of building something to be remembered.
“If anyone knows Ruston track and field, that’s been the mainstay of the program in the 20 years I’ve been around the area. No one individual is bigger than the program. They’re contributing to the legacy of the program, and that’s definitely something I want to keep going while putting my spin on it as well and try to get as many kids participating in the program as possible. I want to help the Ruston athletes build character and discipline and create memories that end up mattering the most as well.”
While Smith coached both cross country and track and field programs at Ouachita, Dustin Cochran will remain on as cross country coach for the RHS boys and girls teams.
“I’ve run everywhere I’ll ask the Ruston student athletes to run,” Smith said. “I’m super excited about Lincoln Parish Park and what the geography of Ruston will allow me to do as a coach training-wise, as opposed to where I’ve been where it’s all flat.
“And I’m excited to be somewhere where everything funnels into the one school as well. It just feels like a great opportunity and I’m glad it was available and I went ahead and put my name in the hat.”