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Dwyne Smith Sr. passed to his oldest son both his name and his insight into what makes a great track and field sprinter. But only when Dwyne Smith Jr. decided to make the sport his own did the recent Apple Valley graduate take off.

Smith was named the Star Tribune's Metro Athlete of the Year in boys track and field for a standout senior season — a long way from his transformative sophomore season. The summer months leading into that season, he pondered quitting altogether.

"Track is track," Smith Jr. said. "It's very hard on the body, and I wasn't mentally strong enough to say, 'I want to keep doing this.' "

Smith Jr. decided to shift his mindset, and once he freed his mind, his body followed. He clocked a then-personal-best 400-meter time of 47.55 seconds — nearly two seconds faster than his previous best.

Smith Sr., a former Prior Lake and St. Mary's sprinter, saw a difference in his son almost daily.

"We would spend time during the workouts addressing his mind so he could pick up on the techniques he needed to improve in order to get faster," Smith Sr. said. "Once he locked in, he was way more receptive. I didn't have to ask about his workouts. He would say, 'All right, Dad, I am going to work out.' That transitioned into his times, and once he saw that, he was completely locked in."

This spring, Smith Jr. set Minnesota's record in the 400 (46.87 seconds) and became the first sprinter to break the 47-second barrier. He also broke the Apple Valley school record in the 200 (21.43). He signed with the Gophers.

"It came back to what I had been telling him all his life," Smith Sr. said. "If you think something is going to be hard, it's going to be hard. Whenever you see your son grow into a young man and become mentally strong, it's so rewarding."