Blankenbaker gains experience in college steeplechase debut

By Joe Naiman

Ramona’s Dylan Blankenbaker competed in the Jim Bush Classic track and field meet June 1 at UCLA and finished sixth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

“It wasn’t a really awesome day for me. I’m happy I was able to get something,” Blankenbaker said.

“Something” means experience in a race he had never previously run and in his first race since December 2011 when he was a Ramona High School senior.

“I definitely learned a lot about it,” Blankenbaker said. “I’ll use the experience I had for future races.”

Blankenbaker had knee surgery and missed the 2012 track and field season, so he closed out his high school career with the Nike Nationals cross country meet in December 2011. In February 2012 he signed a letter of intent to run at the University of Oklahoma. He redshirted during the 2012-13 cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track seasons, so the Jim Bush Classic meet was his first in approximately 18 months.

“It was nice to be able to get on the track again,” he said. “It was nice to get in a real competition and see where I was at.”

The steeplechase is not a high school event, and Blankenbaker did not run any hurdles races in high school. Because steeplechase barriers do not move, the time penalties for knocking down a hurdle are not applicable. Blankenbaker’s debut in the steeplechase was a mutual decision between himself and the Oklahoma coaches.

“We talked about doing the steeplechase and it was something that had sparked my interest,” he said.

The race was also Blankenbaker’s first in California since the November 2011 CIF state cross country meet.

“It was nice to come here for a little while and be back in a comfortable environment for a few days,” he said.

Blankenbaker had a time of 9:38.15.  “I was just really raw from not running for so long,” he said.

Winner Jesus Romo completed the race in 9:01.51. Fourth-place Blake Myers had a time of 9:35.46 while fifth-place Brandon Taylor raced for 9:35.74.

“I really don’t know what I could have done differently during the race,” said Blankenbaker.

His high school races relied on endurance and gaining positions after a conservative start, and he did not lose any positions at the Jim Bush Classic.

“I started in last and then kept moving up,” he said.

The seventh-place finisher, Brandon Shirck, spent 9:47.08 on the course. The remaining four finishers exceeded 10 minutes with the last-place finisher taking 12:13.87.

“I’m not particularly happy about the way that I ran, but at the same time I can’t be upset. It was my first one and I got a lot out of it,” Blankenbaker said.

   
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