Friday, July 16, 2010

Ben Blankenship Talks About His Experiences at the NACAC Meet

The University of Minnesota's Ben Blankenship won a silver medal in the 1,500 Meters at the NACAC Meet last Saturday. Upon his return, he answered a few questions from DtB.

Down the Backstretch: How did you get picked for the team? Is there some sort of qualifying process based on performance in a certain meet.

Ben Blankenship: I believe they picked athletes based on a disending order list of times run by athletes under the age of 23 in the past year.

DtB: The collegiate season is pretty intense with a lot of competition throughout the year in XC, indoor track, outdoor track, and now this. How do you stay motivated and sharp after a long season to be able to perform well at the NACAC meet?

BB: The year is really long because distance runners have to peak three times, and during outdoor, I had to have my peak last for a month and a half. With the new organization of the regional meet, it was even more difficult to stay sharp in June and July.

I stayed motivated by being able to represent the Unversity of Minnesota at Nationals and the USA's and the United States at the NACAC meet. I worked with Coach Plaz to alter my training and try and keep things fresh.

DtB: Can you give us a recap of how the race unfolded? One suspects that since the weather was hot and humid, nobody tried to run from the front, so it would end up being a tactical battle. In the end it appeared to come down to the two guys with the best times coming in, you and the Canadian.
Did the two Canadians try any team tactics or was it every man for himself?

BB: The first 200 meters went out slow because no one wanted to take the lead in the heat and wind. Somehow in the start my left spike got ripped open leaving my toes exposed. I decided to take the lead after the 200, and everyone else followed. I got the pace back on track by running 60 second laps for next two laps. The race turned into a kick with 300 meters to go between myself and the Canadian. He edged me out in the last 100 meters, but we ran a 54 second last lap. I was proud of the effort at the end of such a long season.

DtB: Is there much socializing with the athletes from the other countries? Have you developed any friendships with any of the foreign athletes? Any memories you will take home with you of experiences you've had off the track?

BB: There was some socialing with athletes from other counties, but it was hard to communicate with the language barrier. Many of the other athletes spoke Spanish, and unfortunetly my Spanish is few and far between. We did have fun trading clothes. I got an awesome Dominican Republic shirt and a Mexico jacket.

DtB: Aside from your teammate, Aaron Studt, did you know anybody else on the team? Did you hang out with the US athletes or spend more time trying to get to know some of the athletes from the other countries?

BB: I did not no anyone besides Aaron going into the meet. I had fun meeting and hanging out with other American athletes. I met Kurt(Roberts, winner of the Shot Put), Aaron's counterpart and a hipster (Tschida) who threw javelin. Also, many other tracksters on the American team. My roomamte (Mohamud) Ige(University of Arizona) is one of Hassy's(U of M teammate, Hassan Mead) good friends, and he was a bunch of fun to room with.

DtB: Aside from getting together young athletes from countries in this hemisphere, what is the purpose of this competition? Sort of a mini version of a youth Pan American Games?

BB: Getting together with young athletes from other countries was one aspect of the meet. Another goal of the meet was to prepare runners for future international meets. They made us follow the rules and procedures of Olympic style track events.

DtB: What are the memories you will take away from the experience?
BB: The memories I have of this meet will have to be kept between the people that were there and shared them.

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