Chatham Charter sprinter signs to UNC Wilmington

Lucas Smith will join Seahawks’ program after starting track in 2023.


Nearly a year after running track for the first time in the spring of 2023, Chatham Charter senior Lucas Smith signed to the UNC Wilmington track program Wednesday.

In May, Smith, a sprinter and thrower, competed in the NCHSAA 1A State Championship meet and finished fourth in the 400 meter dash finals. He verbally committed to UNCW in November.

“It’s a weight lifted off my shoulders now,” Smith said. “It’s kind of a relief that it’s all done with, and now I can just focus on the future, focus on this year and just improvement.”

This winter, Smith has been competing in indoor track events for the first time, competing in the 55, 300 and 500 meter dashes.

Before running track, Smith played baseball at Chatham Charter for two seasons, and he played four seasons of soccer.

Smith decided to run track because he felt he always had the speed. However, he didn’t get started in the sport earlier partly due to a lack of a track team in middle school, which left him limited options on where to run.

“I was like, ‘why not,’” Smith said about deciding to run. “It’s just something to do.”

In his first outdoor season, Smith found success in the new sport with personal records including an 11.34 in the 100 meter dash, a 22.73 in the 200 meter dash and a 50.08 in the 400 meter dash.

He further validated his speed in the winter, running personal bests of 6.79 in the 55 meter dash, 35.89 in the 300 meter dash and 1:06.4 in the 500 meter dash.

Smith said his workout journey that he started four years ago and the feeling of winning a race have pushed him to work harder and get him to the point where he is now.

Chip Smith, Smith’s father and indoor track coach, said his son even did his own research on ways to improve his speed.

“Extremely proud of him,” Chip Smith said. “He’s put in a ton of hard work, and it’s nice to see it pay off for him.”

Smith had different options for college, but he chose UNCW with the help of its assistant coach Donald Thomas and the family’s familiarity with the school.

His older sister, Rachel Smith Purvis, graduated from UNCW and worked in the athletic department with the facilities and event staff.

“As his older sister seeing him go to the same school I went to but in a different capacity, I think it’s really exciting,” Purvis said. “It’s a big deal (because) it’s the first athlete in our family that has gone to play a sport in college, and with it being a D-I sport, we feel like it’s a pretty impressive move.”

Regarding how the coaching staff presented the UNCW program, Smith’s family was left with a positive impression.

“The biggest thing that I was impressed with were the coaches,” Chip Smith said. “Coach Thomas has been great through the whole recruiting process. He’s really made us as parents feel comfortable with him, with the program (and) with his values.”

Said Lucas Smith, “(Thomas) told me stories of other athletes who were running around the same times as my times are right now and how much they have improved. I thought that if he can do that for them, with my work ethic, I know that he can do that for me too.”