Long-time teammates and Oregon Track Club Elite stars Ben Blankenship and Hassan Mead headlined TrackTown Tuesday at the Downtown Athletic Club on May 7.
The duo shared stories and laughs with the crowd. They discussed their recent successes as well as detailing how they have grown throughout their professional careers.
Since joining OTC Elite in 2012, Blankenship is still evolving as a runner. He pointed to his victory at the 2018 USATF National Club Cross Country Championships as an example of this evolution.
“I just wanted to go out there and enjoy running,” said Blankenship. “Every day we step out on the track and are judged on how we perform. I wanted to retool myself in a different way.”
Mead recognized the importance of adaptability in tackling the 5,000m and 10,000m.
“We train for across the field,” explained Mead. “That way, when we want to race, we will be prepared for all of them. In 2017 we went for the 10k and I got the title for the US. You have to be ready so in case one event doesn’t work out, you can be prepared for the other.”
The Oregon track & field program was represented on the TrackTown Tuesday stage by Associate Head Coach Curtis Taylor along with sprinters Cravon Gillespie and Venessa D’Arpino. According to Taylor, the foundation for Oregon’s success moving forward is in the overarching culture of the program.
“The most important thing is to find people who fit with Oregon and want to stay at Oregon,” said Taylor. “We want people who want to be here and Be Oregon…these guys (D’Arpino and Gillespie) are the definition of that.”
D’Arpino reiterated that same philosophy as she described her motivation behind transferring to Oregon from Oregon State.
“It’s always been Oregon,” said D’Arpino. “I’m Oregon-born, Oregon-raised. I wanted to represent the state where I came from. That’s always been the goal.”
Gillespie also reflected on his journey to Oregon, which began in Pasadena, Calif.
“Coming from Pasadena, I have a lot of friends that have a lot of talent but made the wrong decisions and went down the wrong path,” said Gillespie. “My thing is to stay focused and stay humble. When I got the opportunity to come here, I took it and wanted to make the most of it.”
Next up for the Ducks are the Pac-12 Championships, May 11–12 in Tucson, Ariz.
Nike Running Insights Director John Truax, a University of Oregon alum, has been working at Nike for nearly 30 years, and shared some of his proudest accomplishments from that time with the audience. That included helping to establish and name a running trail on the Nike Campus after his colleague and mentor Geoff Hollister.
Truax credited Hollister for instilling in him a sense of the importance of giving back to the running community at large.
“I think giving back to the sport is what we should all be doing,” said Truax.
Truax also described his connection with University of Oregon student Justin Gallegos. In October, Truax presented Gallegos with a Nike contract, making Gallegos the company’s first professional athlete with cerebral palsy.
“With Justin, he is a passionate kid,” said Truax. “That’s what drew me to him – his love for the sport…He inspires a lot of people. Nike has a lot of great athletes around the world and sometimes they are hard to relate to. But for Justin, anyone can relate to him.”
The final TrackTown Tuesday of the year will be at the Downtown Athletic Club on June 4.