Gene Blankenship would be the first individual to inform you the way in which he coaches cross nation is for the crew.
From his days at Hart Excessive College in Santa Clarita, California within the 1980’s, early 90’s, to being at Medical Lake Excessive College for over a decade, Blankenship has constructed applications from the bottom up and remodeled them into championship caliber teams.
“I’ve at all times been recognized for groups,” Blankenship stated. “I’ve even instructed individuals every now and then, ‘In order for you your child to be team-runner, convey them to me. In order for you them to be a person champ, perhaps take them someplace else’.”
Blankenship has coached six state championship groups on the boy’s facet. Since his time at Medical Lake, the Cardinals have received three 1A state cross nation titles between 2013 and 2017.
Regardless of his presence round some nice groups, he is by no means as soon as coached a child to win a person state title in cross nation.
After 42 years, the wait was lastly over.
Earlier this month, Medical Lake senior Reid Headrick capped off his highschool cross nation profession profitable the 1A boys state particular person title in 16 minutes, 1 second over the 5,000-meter course on the Solar Willows Golf Course in Pasco, changing into Blankenship’s first-ever state cross nation particular person champion.
“It was in all probability essentially the most nervous I’ve ever been for a meet,” Headrick stated. “I had been there sufficient to know that I may do it. That was by no means a thought in my thoughts that I could not be a state champion. I believe I used to be essentially the most match. I put in lots of work within the yr simply to get to that time.”
Other than profitable his first state title, it was a historic season for Headrick as he posted a 5k time of 15:26.7, precisely 50 seconds quicker than his earlier greatest time from the 2021 season when he completed third on the 1A state meet as a junior.
“It was positively essentially the most rewarding season I’ve had,” Headrick stated. “Simply because I’ve put in a lot work into attending to the purpose the place I’m. I am glad I may cap it off with one thing like a state championship.”
Not solely was Headrick Blankenship’s first particular person champion in cross nation, however he was additionally the primary Medical Lake student-athlete to perform it.
“I used to be excited,” Blakenship stated. “I used to be excited once I knew he received the race and I walked round seeing his mother from him and everyone was there to congratulate him. I attempted to get to him as quickly as I may and provides him my typical hug.”
Headrick’s journey to the highest has been one stuffed with ups and downs all through his profession.
As a freshman, he was the second-best runner on the crew, trailing solely their high runner for 10 seconds. He additionally helped the Cardinals end third at state behind a twenty fifth place particular person effort.
Then, just a few months later, all momentum stopped for Headrick because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With spring sports activities cancelled, adopted by fall sports activities being postponed to the spring of 2021, it had been over a yr since Headrick had final ran in a cross-country race. And the results began to indicate by the instances he was operating and the place his health was at.
“After my sophomore yr of cross nation, I virtually stop,” Headrick stated. “I virtually stated, ‘I am accomplished with this sport’, as a result of I felt like I wasn’t going anyplace. That season was riddled with accidents and I didn’t carry out in addition to I might have wished.”
However hope wasn’t misplaced and he wished to make enhancements.
After the varsity yr, Headrick took a visit right down to Tillamook, Oregon, and joined different runners from across the Northwest on the Ultimook Working Camp.
There, his love for operating started to return again.
“I used to be lucky sufficient that I went right down to that Ulitmook Camp,” he stated. “It actually introduced again that pleasure for operating. It actually confirmed me that I may compete at a excessive stage, and I may do that sport to my full capability.”
Following the camp, Headrick started coaching at a better stage.
For the primary time in his profession, he felt as assured as ever as a runner.
“I lastly felt like I used to be in form,” Headrick stated. “Solely coaching for a summer time after which going into cross, I by no means felt I used to be essentially in form. This yr I’ve hit new requirements and I am like, ‘Is that this what being in form actually seems like?’”
Headrick’s junior yr started with one other high efficiency at state cross nation as he completed third and led the Cardinals to a different crew trophy. Nevertheless it was the spring the place he actually took off.
Headrick turned out for monitor for the primary time ever after enjoying for the varsity’s soccer crew the previous two seasons. He would go on to set two Medical Lake faculty data within the 800- and 1,600-meter races, operating instances of 1:55.82 within the 800 and 4:20.09 within the 1,600 as he took down former Cardinal nice Dominic Rehm’s instances of 1: 56.03 and 4:21.86.
“It was that third place in cross,” Headrick stated. “After I was in a position to show to myself that I could possibly be a high runner, I ought to pursue monitor and actually go for some state titles. It was time to cease soccer and begin focusing extra on the way forward for my operating area.”
Headrick’s successes on the monitor then translated properly to the cross-country season en path to operating his quickest instances ever and profitable his first state championship this fall. The way in which he has run lately has additionally drawn the eye of school coaches.
“It opened lots of doorways,” Headrick stated. “Even seeing a future in operating, simply having the ability to my first yr exit and run instances that the majority children dream about. It actually opened my eyes to perhaps I wish to do that in school and do it at a better stage.”
“Little question about it he is the most effective distance runner we have had right here,” Blakenship stated.
“He has much more to offer. I am an beginner coach for those who actually have a look at it. I’ve by no means been skilled, I’ve taught myself. I have been teaching lots of years and I’ve coached lots of good children and groups, however an expert coach will get a maintain of him and treats him proper, he will be actually, actually good.”
Headrick will conclude his cross season as one of many few Spokane space highschool runners touring with the Bloomsday Highway Runners Membership right down to Walnut, California to compete on the Champs Sports activities XC Championships at Mt. San Antonio School on Dec. 3, with a chance to qualify for the Champs Sports activities Nationals Championships in San Diego on Dec. 10.