by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
Corunna Freshman Phenom Ben Jacobs turned heads all year as a member of the Corunna High School (CHS) cross country and track teams, but his emergence hit a new level when the young man competed in the New Balance Outdoor Nationals June 18 in Greenboro, NC. Ben made history as the first-ever CHS runner to compete at the New Balance national meet when he stepped on the track for his one-mile race, but his time of 4:36, which was the 13th-fastest time in the Freshman Mile, was even more noteworthy.
Ben’s success as a freshman may surprise some, but he says it all starts with his training. Ben began running every day consistently last summer following his eighth-grade year, though he had trained with the CHS varsity runners during the previous winter. He rises early to make his 7 a.m. practice time and routinely averages between 40 and 60 miles run per week. That consistent hard work, along with an increased caloric intake, has propelled Ben forward as the school year progressed. After missing out on being included on the postseason CHS cross country roster by one position in the fall, Ben continued to train hard and ended up as the sixth-fastest 1,600 runner in the state in Division 2 this spring, posting a personal best time of 4:23. He was a key member of the state qualifying team, as primarily a 1,600 and 3,200 meter runner. As a reward for his hard work on the track and in the classroom, Ben was recognized as an all-state athlete and made the state’s all-academic team, both pretty heady accomplishments for a freshman.
With as much as Ben has accomplished at such a young age, a little cockiness would be expected. The young star, however, is as humble as ever, saying that he runs “for the team” and for his family. His only expectation when he toes the line each time is to do better than he did the previous race.
“The great thing about running is that anyone can be great at it,” Ben said when asked about his secrets to success. “It’s not something that is passed through bloodlines like most other sports. In this sport more than most, if you put the work in you will do well.”
While Ben is far from cocky, he has plenty of confidence. He has set the bar high with his fantastic freshman year, but he is aiming higher for his sophomore year. His main goal is to help his team win the Division 2 state team title, which is not unattainable after the team finished seventh this June, and he also wants to win the state championship in the 1,600 meter race and get his time closer to the 4:10 mark.
Ben’s coach, Jason Beldyga, who also coaches Ben’s older brother Noah, a two-time state champion in the 1,600, as well as the CHS and state record holder in the event, pointed out that Ben is the fastest mile runner in CHS history. Beldyga has been impressed by the young man’s talent and work ethic, and he sees big things in Ben’s future.
“Ben is an incredibly talented and gifted runner who just happens to be an amazing worker,” Beldyga said when reached for comment. “Great things happen when those attributes coincide. He’s very race savvy for his age and is really starting to understand his own strengths as a runner. It’s going to be very special to watch Ben continue to develop over the course of the next three years into one of the nation’s best young distance runners.”