Former Lady Wolverine plays in national championship
For one Dillingham grad, a decade of basketball ended in a national championship game in Iowa this week.
College ball has its differences from high school sports, but for one former lady wolverine, there was a big similarity: a whole town rooting for the the home team.
When shooting guard Kristin Smeaton and her teammates from the Southern Oregon Raiders took to the court for the NAIA Division II national championship game in Sioux City, Iowa on March 15, the whole Ashland community was rooting for them. Just like her days as a Dillingham Wolverine.
“The community is just as involved in the sports as Dillingham is,” Smeaton said. “So it’s nice to go from there where everyone is contributing and encouraging you to go to Oregon, where it’s the same feeling.”
Not every fan could be in Sioux City for the Raiders’ first bid at a national title – although Smeaton’s mom, Helen Smeaton, was in the audience – but Smeaton said the team knew that back in Ashland, folks were watching. Some restaurants had even set up rooms to view the game, she said.
Smeaton said she also brought an important lesson with her from Dillingham to Ashland, Ore. She had several coaches growing up in Dillingham.
“They all taught me that hard work will get you to where you want,” she said. “Dillingham’s a really small place so it’s hard to get seen and get your name out there. They always taught me never give up and always work hard and everything will pay off.”
That carried her through her high school days, when the Wolverines went to state twice, and has helped her along in Oregon. The Raiders have never won the national title. Last year they made it to the national tournament, but got knocked out earlier on. This year, Smeaton said just beating the team that knocked them out in 2015 was a “really good achievement.”
Then, March 14, they went on to beat Goshen College in the fab four matchup, giving them a shot at the championship. After a close game, Southern Oregon lost to Marin University, 59-48, on March 15.
“We recently just had a senior hurt her knee and she is done for the year and she is one of our biggest leaders so right now we’re kind of putting everything aside and playing for her,” Smeaton said. “...What I’ve learned is this is like your family and you play for each other and these are moments you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”
The national championship was Smeaton’s last big game as a Raider. She’s finishing her fourth year of basketball, although she’ll stay in Ashland for one more year to finish her degree. While she finishes school, Smeaton said she may still spend time with the team, and help them out if needed next year.
Her next adventure won’t take her far from sports either. Smeaton said she plans to get her degree in physical therapy, and then go into that field.
“I guess just being around it, and seeing how it helps so much,” Smeaton said. “You get to see other people progress – whereas they think it might be the end of the career or it might be the end of the season or something, you get to watch each and every day them improve. So that got me interested in becoming a physical therapist.”