Athlete profile of the week: Cedrick Henderson-Smith

Cedrick Henderson-Smith has found a “family” of athletes on Washburn’s Track and Field team, but he’s no stranger to being surrounded by loved ones. 

Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, Henderson-Smith is just one of 12 siblings. Although Henderson-Smith was raised by women, his mother, Mytrethia Gunter, and his grandmother, Corretta Pettis, he attended all-boys schools from the sixth grade up until he transfered to Washburn as a freshman in 2016. 

As the seventh child, he is the first one of his siblings to transition from high school to a four year university with the full intent of receiving a degree.

Henderson-Smith says that his decision to attend Washburn was based around their highly regarded criminal justice program, since that’s what he planned to major in.

“I saw that Washburn had a really good criminal justice program, so I applied. I ended up getting accepted the day before [high school] graduation,” Henderson-Smith said.

Although it’s part of his daily routine now, putting the ‘athlete’ in ‘student athlete’ hasn’t always been the plan for Henderson-Smith.

“I wasn’t going to go to school for sports because I felt like I had lived my glory days in high school,” Henderson-Smith said. “I got here [Washburn] my freshman year and intended to walk on, but I got scared, so I didn’t.”

The fear of running at the collegiate level didn’t last forever. Last year, as a sophomore, Henderson-Smith made contact with Cameron Babb to try out for the track team, for real this time.

His talent outweighed his fear and he was able to walk on as a red-shirt freshman, which gave the coaches a chance to see if Henderson-Smith was dedicated to running for the program before offering him a scholarship. This year, he has finally earned his spot as a sprinter for the track team and is receiving an athletic scholarship.

Henderson-Smith says that finally joining the track team was one of the best decisions he’s made in life so far.

“I love our team. I don’t think there’s a single person on the team that I don’t like,” Henderson-Smith said. “Once we get tired, we have someone there to lift us up. I look forward to going to practice because I’m surrounded by people that are on the same mission as me.”

A typical day for Henderson-Smith includes class, meetings, a tough track practice and homework. But none of this can happen before an important morning routine. 

“I HAVE to make my bed,” Henderson-Smith said. “Coach T sent us a video for motivational Monday last year of a Navy Seal talking about how, by making your bed in the morning, you’ve already had your first accomplishment of the day. If you can start your day out with an accomplishment, you’ll go through your day feeling like you can accomplish so much more.”

With plans to graduate with his bachelor’s of criminal justice and an emphasis in law enforcement in the spring of 2020, Henderson-Smith has hopes of becoming an FBI agent here in Kansas and earning a position in the Special Victims Unit.

“People make fun of me for it [wanting to stay in Kansas], but I spent my whole life in Omaha just waiting to leave. Now I left and have made a good life for myself here in Topeka. I see no reason to leave,” Henderson-Smith said.

He says if staying here in Kansas doesn’t work out, living in Texas would be a close second.

“I’m the type of person who likes to see the best in everybody. I like to make the best out of a bad situation, because there’s no reason to spend everyday being sad,” Henderson-Smith said. “One day we’re not gonna be here and you don’t want people to remember you as always being sad. Carpe diem, seize the moment.

“I want people to remember me as a great leader, a great, loving, kind person who always had a smile on their face. An all-around great person.”

When asked what he aims to accomplish before he dies, Henderson-Smith says his bucket list only includes one thing: traveling to Amsterdam to visit the Anne Frank museum.

Henderson-Smith says he spends his free time away from practice and school just hanging out with friends at his house, usually eating some sort of food. He also said that sometimes he and his friends bond by going on runs.

Out of his twelve siblings, Henderson-Smith is the second of just four boys. Being surrounded by mostly sisters and being raised by his mother and grandmother has opened his eyes to the struggles that women (especially women of color) face in their daily lives.

Henderson-Smith says some causes that he is really passionate about include gender equality, freedom of speech and Black Lives Matter.

“I know I’m not a feminist, but growing up I really saw a lot of things based around my mother, grandmother and just women in general. They get very degraded and suffer stereotypes that most people don’t see as offensive. Growing up with my mother and grandmother, they made me aware of a lot of sexist comments. They taught me that anything a man can do, a woman can do better,” Henderson-Smith said.

In addition to being a part of the Track and Field program, Henderson-Smith also  uses his leadership skills to contribute to other organizations. He is a member of Young Life, the student church group here on campus, as well as being the key member of Kappa Alpha Si Incorporated, a black fraternity that was recentlty reinstated here at Washburn by Henderson-Smith himself.

Overall, Henderson-Smith has nothing but positive things to say about Washburn University.

“I just love Washburn. Third year here, no complaints,” Henderson-Smith says. “I’m happy that I made the decision to come here. It’s only going up from here.”