Sherri Smith's past came calling earlier this summer and, although it took quite some time to do so, she finally answered.
Smith quickly spurned Steve Gulley, her former track coach at Baylor University, when he called to offer her the job of women's distance coach at the University of Tulsa, the school at which he now heads the track program.
"I initially said 'no' because it meant moving out of the Sault," said Smith, an integral fixture of Sault Ste. Marie's track and triathlon landscapes.
Smith won the 2005 H.P. Broughton Trophy as Sault Ste. Marie's Sportsperson of the Year. She is also the founder and race chair of the St. Joseph Island Triathlon, an event now in its third year and scheduled to take place Aug. 12 on the Island.
Upon further review, Smith became intrigued with the thought of coaching at the small school in Oklahoma.
"Something about it excited me, it piqued my interest," said Smith, who will be paid strictly to coach and has no teaching duties at Tulsa. "For the first time in a long time, I was excited about something, as an individual - for me."
Under Gulley, Smith starred at Baylor, helping propel the school toward the top of the national rankings in track and field. At one time, Smith, now 30, held the Baylor's record time in the 5,000-metre and the Big 12 Conference record in the 10,000 m. She's also a world champion triathlete.
Gulley could not be reached for comment as he is currently spending time in Australia.
Smith returned from Tulsa Wednesday night. She officially began her position, which carries with it no teaching requirements, last Monday. However, paperwork at U.S. Immigration hasn't been fully completed.
When she does finally settle in, Smith inherits a middle-of-the-pack program.
She will coach cross country and runners who race distances of 1,500 m and longer.
"It's an up-and-coming track program," Smith admitted.
But it has potential. The Golden Hurricane women's track team placed fifth at the Conference USA Track and Field Championships this past season. Just last week, Alex Becker, who hails from Guelph, won the 1,500-m race at the Canadian Junior Track and Field Championships in Sherbrooke, Que.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly to Smith, the Golden Hurricane women's track team was named Academic All-American this season.
"Academically, the school is ranked," Smith said. "I want kids to get a good education."
The student-to-teacher ratio at Tulsa is 11-1 and education roughly cost $28,000 US per scholastic year.
"It's not just a line to give to students," Smith said of the quality of education at Tulsa. "Morally and ethically, I like that. It's excellent for recruiting."