Carl Blackhurst of Haines realizes he probably won't win the 3,000-meter steeplechase event at the USA Track and Field Outdoor National Championships this weekend in Eugene, Ore. He also thinks it's unlikely he will make the U.S. team for the World Championships in Portugal.
But Blackhurst, who just completed his eligibility at Adams State College in Alamosa, Colo., feels he can run fast enough to make the U.S. team for the World University Games. If Blackhurst is one of the top two collegian runners in his event, he will earn a trip to the World University Games held Aug. 27-Sept. 1 in Beijing, China. Blackhurst runs in a preliminary heat today, with the finals set for Sunday.
"I'm pretty much a rookie, so to make the finals would be an honor," Blackhurst said by phone last week as he trained in Colorado. "I'd be a longshot to make the world team. The main thing I want to do is qualify for the World University Games."
Blackhurst took second place in the steeplechase last month in the NCAA Division II national championships, his best finish ever in his specialty event and the fourth time he earned NCAA Division II all-American status in the event. He's competed as an elite runner in events like the Mount SAC (San Antonio College) Relays, but this is Blackhurst's first trip to the U.S. National Championships.
Blackhurst's best time in the event is 8 minutes, 42.93 seconds, which ranks 21st of the 25 runners to qualify for the national championships and is the fourth-best collegiate time. Jeremy Tolman of Weber State is the top collegian (and seventh overall seed) at 8:34.59, with Wisconsin's Jared Cordes at 8:36.45 and Colorado's Steve Slattery at 8:37.69. The top seed time in the event is 8:21.50 seconds by Tim Broe of Team Adidas, although three-time national champion Mark Croghan has run 8:09.76.
"It's pretty exciting to have the opportunity to compete against these guys," said Blackhurst, who has one semester left to complete his double-major of English and history. "I'd like to run an 8:30 by the end of the summer. That would put me at the world standard, but in order to move up I have to race faster guys."
Blackhurst has devoted his summer to training for the steeplechase, and has cut down his working hours so he can train. He has been running intervals, sets of 400-meter runs with five barriers on the track, and Blackhurst said he's dropped about a second off his time on each interval. That should add up to about seven or eight seconds over the full event.
"I've been focussing on my training, and I've been having good track workouts," Blackhurst said. "My averages have been the best they've ever been on my intervals."
Last weekend, Blackhurst flew to the Caribbean island of Guadalupe where he'd been invited to run in a 1,500-meter race on June 14. While the 1,500 isn't his main event, Blackhurst said he was happy for the opportunity to travel someplace he'd never been and for the opportunity to possibly pick up a little prize money, something he wasn't allowed to accept while he still had college eligibility. He also thought the shorter race might help his speedwork for the steeplechase.
After this weekend's national championships, Blackhurst will head to Ireland to train with a club team in Dublin for the months of July and August. He was invited by one of his Adams State teammates, and he hopes the trip to Ireland might open up a few more opportunities for his running career.
"The faster I run, the faster I go, means the more doors are open for me," Blackhurst said. "I've got a semester left of school, but if I'm running well I may take a year off to see where I can take it. I plan to be in Alamosa, because I love training at altitude. If I decide to get my teaching certificate, I might head back to Alaska for my student teaching."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.