HEBRON – Brookville High School runner Justin Bland competed Saturday in the 91st annual Ohio State Cross-Country championships, held at National Trail Raceway in the Columbus suburb of Hebron.
This was Bland’s third time qualifying for the event and his experience proved useful.
He landed a podium spot in 19th place out of the 182 runners competing in Division II. This qualifies him as All-Ohio runner and makes him just the sixth runner in Brookville High School history to accomplish such an honor.
“Justin probably ran his best tactical race of his career,” said his coach, Jon Bland. “He got out fast, but not too fast, which is extremely difficult to do in such a deep and competitive field.
“He was in 33rd at the mile mark but only a couple seconds back from where he would eventually finish,” Coach Bland added.
The Brookville senior runner began working his way through the field of runners in the second mile (a cross-country course is just over 3.1 miles long), passing about 15 runners and into medal contention.
“He started to fade just a little in the third mile and slipped to 22nd place but in dramatic fashion saved his best for the last 150 meters,” Coach Bland said. “He laid down an explosive kick and passed three people in the home stretch in front of the packed grandstands to accomplish his goal of making the podium at State.
Bland’s finished the course in 16:22.
“As a coach, I’m extremely proud of his placing but I’m prouder of the effort and dedication Justin made to getting better every day,” said Coach Bland. “He put in nearly 300 miles each summer for the last four years to accomplish this result.
“He is talented for sure, but his drive, focus, and commitment are what separated him today,” the coach added. “It was a perfect ending to this high school cross country career.
“Thank you to the many teammates, administration, friends, and family who came out to support Justin on such a special day. It was a great day to be a Blue Devil.”