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While the 2015 cross-country season is still in its infancy, a pair of Historic Triangle runners are putting up times that place them among the top runners in the state.
Tabb senior Lindsey Blanks and Lafayette junior Konrad Steck have been blazing the trails on which they run, with both logging top-10 times in the state for their respective genders.
During a quad meet Sept. 16, Blanks ran a time of 18:14, a time that places her third overall in the state for girls runners. Steck clocked a time of 15:53 during the Albert E. Dorner: Newport News Invitational, which ranks eighth best in the state this year for boys.
While Steck is keenly aware of his place among the best runners in the state — he takes time to monitor results on Milestat — Blanks was completely unaware of how fast she was running compared to others.
“Oh wow! I definitely did not know that,” said Blanks when learning she had the third fastest time in the state among girls so far.
Despite their varying levels of awareness on overall times, both runners sit toward the top of the rankings for a reason. Both runners cited their offseason training with Lafayette Assistant Coach Drew Mearns.
Mearns, who manages the Growing Runners Track Club in Williamsburg, was a distance runner for 40 years and helped manage some of the world’s top distance runners as an agent for IMG.
Mearns, who has coached with Lafayette since 2012, has put in countless training sessions with Steck during the regular season. Mearns has also trained Blanks, who runs for GRTC, for the past two years.
Both Steck and Blanks said Mearns’ offseason workouts, which consist of speed work, distance running and mental preparation, have helped to significantly improve their comfort during this cross-country season.
Having trained both athletes for the past two years, Mearns described Steck and Blanks as “very different runners.”
Steck, Mearns said, is a tough runner who has learned to push himself harder to achieve his results. Meanwhile, Mearns described Blanks as an intellectual runner who always has a plan of attack heading into a race.
And despite the differences in running styles, it has come as no surprise to Mearns both runners have thrived this season. With so many races ahead of the two, Mearns does not think it is out of the realm of possibility for both to compete beyond the state level.
“I think they’ll definitely compete with the best in the state and both of them have potential to go beyond the best in the state and compete at the national level, or at least at the regional level,” Mearns said of Steck and Blanks.
Mearns’ high praise of Steck and Blanks differs from the more tempered expectations expressed by the two high-school standouts.
Blanks, who hopes to reach the sub-18 minute mark this season, said she would not be surprised if her rank in the state fell as the season progressed but remained hopeful she could keep pace with some of the top runners in the state.
Steck was a bit more confident in holding his place toward the top of the state rankings, saying he hopes to place higher as he competes in bigger meets. That goal is not just limited to this year, either.
“I would like to be [at the top of the rankings] by my senior year,” he said.
If the performances by Steck and Blanks so far this season are any indication, neither runner is likely to lose their spot among the best runners in the state any time soon.