"I always thought that, yes, this year would go a little bit better. Never did I ever imagine that he would win," Smith's coach Debbie Cole said.
After taking third in 2012, Smith won the region this time around, and cruises into the Midwest Sectionals with the best overall score of all contestants that qualified for the trip.
He says the lift in 2013 comes from attention to detail.
"I think just really focusing on consistency, and with the help of my great coaches, I was able to do that and pull it off," Smith said.
"He's kind of making a name for himself," Cole said. "It's funny to watch people all of a sudden take notice of him on the ice."
The 13-year-old is turning heads after learning to skate only six years ago. He recalls his first competition at Bode Ice Arena that's driven him to get to this stage.
"It was definitely a learning experience," Smith said. "Let's just say I didn't do so well. I think that really motivated me to do a lot better."
Now four years after struggling in his first competition, Smith finds himself one step away from making an appearance in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston.
Wednesday marks his first venture onto the ice at the Midwestern Sectional Championships.
"Last year basically was just an experience getter of here we are," Cole said. "This year we plan on going and doing something."
"If I made it to nationals, I think I just want to do my best, skate a clean program and maybe make it to the podium," Smith said.
Modest goals from one of the top skaters in the country.