KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - Victor Ashe Park will be flooded this Saturday with some of the best young runners from all across the state.
Hundreds of elementary and middle schoolers will be vying for a state title in cross country. One of those runners is a two-time defending champ, logging times many high schoolers can't achieve, and this young man is only 11 years old.
Keegan Smith, 11, was getting in one of his final workouts for Saturday's race when WATE 6 On Your Side's cameras caught up with him on Wednesday. He was training at Webb with a few other elite runners. Often you'll find him running with kids who tower over him in size, but don't let that fool you.
"If you are the best, train like the second best. So I use my brother and mostly I train with older kids," Keegan said.
The Sacred Heart fifth grader has already racked up accolades, including blowing away the competition this year to win the gold medal in the 3000 meter race at the AAU Junior Olympics in Detroit.
This weekend, while Keegan is the two-time defending champ for the elementary school mile in Tennessee, he says his only goal is to beat himself.
"It's the state meet and i have been training all season, but I am more focused on breaking five than winning it," he said.
He's talking about the five minute mark. His fastest time to date is 5:02.73.
"When I am in a race and I want to keep going, I just think about the Olympics," said Keegan.
Keegan's coach, Tony Cosey, is a former Olympian himself.
"It is impressive he has accomplished quite a lot at an early age," said Cosey.
Coach Cosey says during those long training runs, having goals like the Olympics can keep young runners focused, but he says that's not usually a problem with someone as driven as Keegan.
"The five minute barrier, as in the mile, like any one minute barrier - even in high school to break five minutes is a pretty quick!" he said.
With such a strong beginning, both the coach and Keegan are excited and grateful for the journey they are on.
"We haven't even begun to scratch the surface with him. The sky is the limit," said Cosey. "It's just been a blessing to me and it just keeps getting better and better."
Cosey says he sometimes needs to really concentrate on making sure Keegan has a smooth and steady progression to allow himself to grow and develop without injuring hims