Gene Blankenship will be the first person to tell you that the way he coaches cross country is for the team.
From his days at Hart High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., in the 1980s, through the early ’90s, to being at Medical Lake High School for over a decade, Blankenship has built programs from the ground up and has transformed into championship caliber groups.
“I’ve always been known for teams,” Blankenship said. “I’ve even told people from time to time, ‘If you want your kid to be a good team rider, bring them to me. If you want them to be individual champions, maybe take them. somewhere else “.
Blankenship has coached six state championship teams on the boys’ side. Since his time at Medical Lake, the Cardinals have won three 1A cross country titles between 2013 and 2017.
Despite being on big teams, he never coached a kid to win an individual state title in cross country.
After 42 years, the wait was finally over.
Earlier this month, Medical Lake senior Reid Headrick capped off his high school cross-country career by winning the 1A boys state individual title in 16 minutes, 1 second on the course’s 5,000-yard course. Sun Willows golf course in Pasco, becoming Blankenship’s first-ever. individual national cross-country champion.
“It was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been for a competition,” Headrick said. “I had been there enough to know I could do it. It was never a thought in my mind that I couldn’t be state champion. I think I was the fittest. I put a lot of work into the year just to get to this point.
Along with winning his first state title, it was a historic season for Headrick as he posted a 5k time of 15:26.7, exactly 50 seconds faster than his previous best time of the 2021 season when he finished third at the 1A State Meet as a junior.
“It was definitely the most rewarding season I’ve had,” Headrick said. “Simply because I’ve worked so hard to get where I am. I’m glad I was able to top it off with something like a state championship.
Not only was Headrick Blankenship the first individual cross country champion, he was also the first student-athlete from Medical Lake to accomplish it.
“I was excited,” Blakenship said. “I was excited when I heard he had won the race and I walked around seeing his mum and everyone was there congratulating him. I tried to reach him as soon as possible and tell him give my usual hug.
Headrick’s journey to the top has been filled with ups and downs throughout his career.
As a rookie, he was the team’s second-best runner, trailing their best runner by only 10 seconds. He also helped the Cardinals finish third in the state behind a 25th-place individual effort.
Then, a few months later, all momentum stalled for Headrick due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With spring sports canceled, followed by fall sports rescheduled for spring 2021, it had been over a year since Headrick had last raced in a cross country race. And the effects started showing up the moment he was running and where his fitness was.
“After my sophomore year of cross country, I almost gave up,” Headrick said. “I almost said, ‘I’m done with this sport,’ because I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere. This season has been riddled with injuries and I haven’t performed as well as I would have liked.
But hope was not lost and he wanted to make improvements.
After the school year, Headrick took a trip to Tillamook, Oregon, and joined other Northwest runners at Ultimook Running Camp.
There his love for racing began to return.
“I was lucky enough to come down to this Ulitmook camp,” he said. “It really brought back that joy of running. It really showed me that I could compete at a high level and that I could play this sport to my full potential.
After camp, Headrick began training at a higher level.
For the first time in his career, he felt as confident as ever as a rider.
“I finally felt like I was fit,” Headrick said. “Training only one summer and then switching to cross country, I never felt that I was necessarily in good shape. This year, I’ve reached new standards and I’m like, ‘Is this really what it’s like to be fit?’
Headrick’s junior year began with another top performance at state cross country as he finished third and led the Cardinals to another team trophy. But it was in the spring that it really took off.
Headrick came forward for the first time after playing for the school football team for the past two seasons. He went on to set two Medical Lake School records in the 800 and 1,600 meter races, running times of 1:55.82 in the 800 and 4:20.09 in the 1,600 as he clinched the 1 time of former Grand Cardinal Dominic Rehm: 56.03 and 4:21.86.
“It was that third place in cross country,” Headrick said. “When I was able to prove to myself that I could be a top runner, I should pursue the track and really aim for state titles. It was time to quit football and start focusing more on the sport. future of my racetrack.
Headrick’s successes on the track then translated well into the cross country season en route to posting his fastest times and winning his first state championship this fall. The way he has been running recently has also caught the attention of college coaches.
“It opened a lot of doors,” Headrick said. “Even seeing a future in running, just being able to get out and run in my first year that most kids dream of. It really opened my eyes to the fact that maybe I want to do that in university and do it at a higher level.
“There’s no question he’s the best long distance runner we’ve had here,” Blakenship said.
“He has a lot more to give. I’m an amateur coach if you really look at it. I was never trained, I learned on my own. I coached for many years and coached a lot of good kids and teams, but a pro coach grabs him and treats him right, he’s going to be really, really good.
Headrick will end his crossover season as one of the few high school runners from the Spokane area to travel with the Bloomsday Road Runners Club to Walnut, Calif. to compete in the Champs Sports XC Championships at Mt. San Antonio College on Dec. 3, with an opportunity to qualify for the Champs Sports Nationals in San Diego on Dec. 10.
#Medical #Lakes #Reid #Headrick #Coach #Gene #Blankenships #Individual #Champion