CHURCH Hill, Tenn. (WJHL) – In 2021, Volunteer High School senior Eliza Smith hit the ground running with the Falcons’ cross country squad.

“I just began last year – it was my first season,” she said. “I do just kind of like the mindless aspect of it all and just getting out there and letting my body take over.”

“You know, I was kind of somewhat reluctant to just throw her out there with everybody else,” Volunteer cross country coach Jim Ailshie said, “but she kept up with them and continued to progress throughout the season.”

Smith progressed and impressed, as she finished the season with all-conference honors and helped the Falcons to a state meet appearance.

“I just had great support from the team and definitely awesome coaching and mentorship from Coach Ailshie – to be able to follow along with the awesome leaders that were already on the team,” she said.

Smith is back again this fall for one final season, in hopes of helping lead the team to the postseason yet again.

“She’s a senior – she’s our only girl’s senior on the team,” Ailshie said. “Once again, just a tremendous individual, not only on the cross country course, but really more importantly what she means within our school.”

Smith serves as class governor and is a member of Key and Beta Club, as well. When those activities and her school work aren’t keeping her too busy, she finds the time to volunteer in a first grade classroom at Church Hill Elementary School.

“While the teacher is getting things prepared, then I will help lead them in songs and boost morale, because they are straight back into the school season coming out of a long summer,” she smiled.

“Whatever it seems like she puts her mind to – she succeeds,” Ailshie said.

Smith is still undecided on her pursuits beyond high school. She has considered becoming a pilot, or perhaps a pastor. But, no matter what she decides, it seems service will play a major role.

“I think I’ve just always been driven by that sense of fulfillment and wanting to have a fulfilling life for myself and also to bring honor to my community and school – my family as well,” she said. “Wherever I can go, if I’m serving in some aspect, I really feel like I can be beneficial to me and to the community, hopefully.”

Ailshie said he has seen this service and thoughtfulness in action – after the recent passing of his mother.

“She had a card, you know, and said we’re thinking and praying for you – just showed me some compassion in my situation during that time,” he explained. “She is a caring individual, she is service oriented – and more importantly, we’re here to help others – and you can see that through Eliza.”