Keith Smith's inspiration for becoming an Olympic-caliber track official was born of disappointment at a much lower level.
During his assistant coaching stint at Severna Park High from 1979-1984, he watched the Falcons' three-time shot put champion Steve Olekscyk get "cheated out of his second consecutive discus title."
"That was at the 1983 state championships at Annapolis High," said Smith, 43, who recently was invited to New Orleans by the Olympic Track and Field Committee to work the 1992 Olympic Trials in June.
"The meet, I thought, was handled very poorly and I felt that poor management cost Steve his title. As a high school coach, you're called on to officiate from time to time, and I said to myself that I wantedto do anything that I could to make officiating fairer."
One yearlater, Smith was a national official at the Eastern States Invitational, among the top high school track meets in the nation.
Smith's responsibilities concentrated on field events like the javelin, shot put, discus and hammer throw -- which were right up his alley since he competed as a discus and shot put thrower during his college days at Mansfield (Pa.) University.
Smith's career took off over the next six years and 1.4 million miles, becoming a veritable marathon of officiating events across the United States. He worked 17 meets televised on the ESPN, ABC, CBS and NBC networks.
Despite two operationsin 1987 to remove a cancerous thyroid, Smith never missed a step in his officiating career.
"I was very fortunate," he said.
While working at the 1988 Olympic Trials in Indianapolis, Smith watched Jackie Joyner Kersee set a heptathlon scoring record, 7,215, one of the two times during the year that she accomplished that feat.
"I was marking her jumps at the long jump pit," Smith recalled. "I felt thatwas a privilege that not many officials get an opportunity to experience."
And, at last year's Mobil U.S. Indoor Track and Field Championships, Smith officiated as Lance Steel set a record in the hammer throw.
As an "implements inspector," Smith is saddled with making sure that equipment, such as javelins, the shot put, the discus and the 35-pound weight used for the hammer throw, meet weight and size specifications.
At the Mobil championships, Smith introduced a revolutionary device for certifying the weight used in the hammer throw. Steel broke the record three times, and Smith certified the weight "after each throw."
"That kind of put my invention on the map," said Smith, who constructed the device himself last February.
"Before Icame up with the idea, there wasn't really any specific way of measuring the hammer. In fact, it was virtually impossible," said Smith, aMillersville resident who teaches science at Crofton Middle School.
"There are ways of measuring other implements, but there's no way to check the hammer, other than eye-balling it," said Smith.
"The hammer is an awkward thing. The handle has to be a certain width, butit is set off of the weight."
Smith's invention, he says, is the only one in existence. And on the suggestions of several of his peers, Smith has taken steps toward obtaining a patent for it.
His nextofficiating job comes Feb. 7, when he travels to the Milrose Games in New York's Madison Square Garden. His new product, which doesn't yet have a name, will be there with him.