The potential to keep winning at increasingly higher levels is enough to motivate cross-country runner Blair Hurlock.
The 17-year-old Tracy native, now a senior at De La Salle High School in Concord, reached a new level of success with his eighth-place finish at the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships West Regional meet at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut on Saturday, Dec. 7.
He ran the 5K course in 15 minutes, 45 seconds, and by placing in the top 10 in the Division I boys race, he qualified for the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Dec. 14, at Balboa Park in San Diego.
“It’s definitely something I thought I could do, and it’s exciting to live up to my expectations,” he said.
Hurlock saw that the national meet was within his reach during his sophomore year when he placed 22nd at the Foot Locker 2011 regional meet. It was a strong finish, but only the top 10 qualify for the national meet. He had hoped to qualify for the national event as a junior but was unable to compete at qualifying meets because of an injury.
This year, he has the physical aspect of cross-country competition down. Hurlock said he typically gets out in front right away and simply outruns the competition.
That’s how he claimed the 2013 East Bay Athletic League and North Coast Section individual championships. It was at the section meet at Hayward High that he established his best time in the 3-mile run, 14:29, which beat a 12-year-old course record.
He went on to set his best 5K time, 15:10, at the California Interscholastic Federation state championships Nov. 30 in Fresno, where he placed fourth.
By the time Hurlock got to the Foot Locker regional meet last weekend, he knew that he was up against runners who would be just as capable of hammering their way through the course. All of the runners were slowed down by the rain and mud on the Mount SAC course last week, but Hurlock’s mental discipline put him ahead of some of the top runners in the U.S.
He believes that the strategy that put him in the top 10 at Mount SAC will also work Saturday in San Diego.
“With higher competition and faster kids, you’ve got to be patient and just wait to see how things play out in the race,” he said. “With as good as the competition is going to be this Saturday, it’s going to be important to stay patient and make sure to not make a wrong move at the wrong time.”
Hurlock got his start in distance running as a freshman at Tracy High. Other sports, such as football and baseball, appealed to him, but his speed and endurance in warm-up laps and conditioning convinced him that he was built for distance running.
During his freshman year, he was the San Joaquin Athletic Association 2010 cross-country champion in the freshman-sophomore boys division, and later that school year, he was SJAA champion in the varsity boys 3,200 meters and second in the 1,600 meters.
Since then, he has become familiar with national competition, traveling to USA Track and Field Junior Olympic competition as part of the Pleasanton Heat track and field club. He won gold in the 3,000 meters and silver in the 1,500 at the August 2011 Junior Olympics in Wichita, Kan., and finished third in the 5K at the USATF Junior Olympics cross-country meet in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in December 2011.
Hurlock’s move to De La Salle in his sophomore year was motivated by a desire for a tougher academic routine. He carries a 4.3 GPA and is applying to universities, including Stanford and UCLA, where he hopes to gain an athletic scholarship and study pre-medicine or biology.
“Anything I do, I go all out for it. That definitely helps in running, because you have to be very disciplined,” he said. “I find motivation in wanting to be the best. Every time I win a race or have a good workout, it encourages me to keep going out there.”
Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com.