WINSTON SALEM, N.C. – Lakeland field hockey sophomore Mia Smith, who plays midfield and defense for last year’s Class B state finalist, earned a gold medal in the 2019 AAU Junior Olympic Games, which consisted of players throughout the United States.

Smith feels that playing in the games will be a huge asset come the fall season, playing for a Lakeland squad that has played in the last 10 state Class B title games, winning nine of them.

“This experience will absolutely help me in the fall because it is playing at an extremely high level of competition,” Smith said. “It lets me know what I need to improve and change to help myself and our high school team’s game play.”

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Lakeland coach Sharon Sarsen agreed with Smith that playing in the games will be an invaluable experience for her.

“This experience will give Mia the confidence not only that she ‘belongs’, but that she will be a key contributor this season,” Sarsen said.

Smith earned her gold medal in the event that was held from July 29-Aug. 1 at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., in the 16-and-under division, which consisted of seven teams.

“My team and I won gold on Aug. 1, it was exhilarating,” said Smith, who played on team black.

Smith said that she was proud of her team’s, as well as her effort, at the games.

“From the get go we were doing our best to learn each other’s names as quickly as possible and strive to work hard and together on the field,” Smith said. “Everyone was so kind and positive and that really helped us win the gold.”

As for having the opportunity to be able to play at a Division 1 facility, it was a great one for Smith.

“Playing at Wake Forest University definitely was a great experience,” Smith said. “The field is Astroturf and anytime a field-hockey player can play on that, it will help them immensely.”

Sarsen was pleased that Smith got to experience what she did at Wake Forest.

“Being a part of a team that came together to win the gold medal rewards Mia with a winning experience,” Sarsen said. “This will continue to help drive her win every time she takes the field.”