EVANSTON — Dustin Smith has joined the ranks of two other Evanston High School graduates in Trent O’Brien and the late Jason Crompton in competing in triathlons and Ironman competitions.
Smith, a 2002 graduate of Evanston High, competed for Red Devil swimming and diving.
“I started out in the AAU swimming programs with Pam and Casey Boyle,” Smith told the Herald.
“I went through middle being coached by Rich Havig and then was a distance swimmer in high school.”
Smith was reunited with the Boyles as coaches during his Red Devil career, where he specialized in the 200 and 500-meter races. He was also keenly aware of Crompton while attempting to chase down Crompton’s school record marks in those distance events.
“I was so close, like a tenth of a second, especially in the 500, but I could never quite match or break Jason’s records.”
Following high school, Smith got away from swimming, citing a sense of burnout. He was busy pursuing a rangeland management degree and simply studying hard and having fun with his college experience.
“Life just gets in the way,” Smith related.
Even though swimming was no longer a part of the equation, Smith maintained an active lifestyle working and managing ranches, putting his degree into play.
While involved in ranching, he chose an entrepreneurial path, putting his love of working with wood and leather in concert, to create saddles and saddle trees. That pursuit took off and Smith realized he could not maintain simultaneous careers, He opted to bow out of ranching industry and focus on the saddle business full-time.
“But I was driving my wife crazy because I had all this energy,” Smith said.
His wife, Mae, has also been involved in athletics all her life and even competed for the University of Wyoming in cross-country racing.
It was his bride who encouraged Smith to run with her to channel his pent-up energy, a pursuit the couple enjoyed together.
“Then she made the mistake of buying me a bicycle for Christmas,” Smith quipped.
He literally and figuratively took off with his new gift, “cycling everywhere.”
Smith noted that there were a number of sprint triathlons near Greybull, where the couple resided at the time. He began to enter those competitions in places like Powell, Cody, Lovell and Buffalo.
The Smiths competed as a team in the beginning and then Dusty, as he’s known to his friends, felt the urge to become a solo act — handling the three legs of a triathlon — the swimming, cycling and running, himself.
“To be honest, I enjoy the brutality of these competitions, pushing your body to the maximum limits,” Smith shared.
“I like the struggle. I embrace the hurt.”
Mae Smith, the director of agriculture at Sheridan College, stepped up her game, as well, as the couple recently competed together, but as individual competitors, in a half-Iron Man in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, which qualified her husband for the world race in South Africa this September.
Smith’s excitement for the upcoming world competition is evident in his vocal intonation but may be overshadowed by the pride he feels for his better half for completing all three legs of an Ironman triathlon by herself.
“When she crossed that finish line, it wasn’t, ‘I’m never, ever doing this again,” but instead was, ‘I’m ready for the next one,’” Smith proudly stated.
WYO Custom Saddles and Trees and the Smiths now call Buffalo home and there are ample expanses of backroads and trails on which to bike and run for the couple. Buffalo has a pool in a local YMCA, too, but with the Sheridan College connection, Smith prefers to utilize a facility there, for its cooler water temperatures. In the summertime, with Lake De Smet “just down the road,” Smith and others will don wetsuits and swim out to islands within the lake, training, while also mentoring swimmers of other abilities.
The Smiths met a former Ironman competitor in YMCA aquatics director Scott Benson, who has helped the couple, especially Mae, train. The Smiths and Benson hope to revive a sprint or Olympics-length triathlon in August of this year which had a 40-year history but went away for various reasons.
Smith currently trains about 15 hours a week. His long days are on the weekends with Mondays used as rest days. He strives for two disciplines per day in his current regime.
“It’s a lot of early mornings and late evenings,” Smith said, but he is appreciative of the benefits that being his own boss allows him, noting he has the freedom to break away for a run, bike or swim, to not only get the workout in but also to reflect upon what is transpiring in his life.
Even though he has qualified for the world race in South Africa, he was on the fence as to whether to compete, but credits his family and friends and in particular his mom for providing the impetus.
“She said, ‘You’ve got to do this. We’ve got to do this,’” Smith said, acknowledging the support both in terms of morale and financial.
The Smiths have learned how to economize trips for competitions by utilizing B&B types of accommodations where they can also prepare their own meals.
The husband and wife team have an additional trip to the southern hemisphere in advance of the world race in South Africa. They will travel to New Zealand for a long-planned-for trip to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. They will celebrate their nuptials but the training will continue while there, though Smith hopes to benefit from high-altitude training upon their return to Wyoming.
The Herald hopes to have a follow-up story after Smith takes part in the world Ironman competition in South Africa this September.