Athlete of the Week: West Anchorage’s Blake Hanley bounces back

Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 8:45 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - West Anchorage junior Blake Hanley finally had the chance to compete in his first high school cross country meet this past weekend.

Hanley excelled, placing first in a 3-kilometer, four-school race around the Beach Lake Trails, clocking in at 10 minutes and 33 seconds on a rainy, mucky Saturday in Chugiak.

“My legs definitely felt good, I hydrated well, I rested well, and hopefully I can do it again,” Hanley said.

It would make sense that the actual running of a cross-country race would be the most difficult part — but for Hanley, it was getting to the starting line.

His freshman season in 2020 was wiped away due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so he turned his attention to the following season. While competing in a race just weeks before the start of his sophomore season, Hanley took a bad step.

“It was the Class Race at APU, it was a 3K and I was going up the last hill, it was me and two other guys, first, second and third,” Hanley recounted. “I just hit a pothole a little weird and my ankle hurt. I still finished, kind of hobbling. We went to the ER and they said I had a broken tibia.”

That fall, Hanley had to watch from the sidelines as his teammates won the Cook Inlet Conference title.

“It definitely hurt, but I knew I’d be back,” Hanley added. “I just knew I had to keep going and things would get better. I just kept working hard, I would go to the gym with my broken ankle and I had a good ski season last year and hoping for a good running season this year.”

Through rehab and recovery, Hanley was able to heal in time for the ski season, to which he admits he likes more than cross country running. Then a sophomore, Hanley placed 10th in the conference before seeing a top-five finish in the 3200-meter at the CIC track and field championships.

However, the current - and future - success of Hanley won’t come as a surprise to those around him.

“I mean he’s one of the hardest working athletes I’ve ever been around and he loves to work,” West Anchorage Cross Country assistant coach John Kauffman said of Hanley. “I mean he embraces it, so he doesn’t view it as like another set of intervals, he embraces the work. Actually, sometimes we have to dial him back a little bit on his work. “That’s why he is having the success that he has is because he is maximizing the work that he’s putting in which is really cool to see.”

Hanley goes the extra mile for his training. Prior to his first healthy season of cross country, Hanley attended the Steen Mountain Running Camp in Southeastern Oregon, where the major objectives are to ‘enjoy and respect wilderness beauty through running, hiking and exploring, at high altitudes.”

“It was an awesome camp, I definitely gained strength physically but definitely mentally,” Hanley said. “I think different in just how I act off the trails, I think I am more invested in myself now.”

Whether skiing when the snow flies or running when it melts, Hanley will be found roaming the trails, no matter where it leads him.

“Honestly don’t know, I am just going to keep working hard and see where it takes me,” Hanley said of his future in athletics. “I hope it’s both (running and skiing) but if it’s one, then I am not going to complain.”

Expect Hanley to be a top contender throughout the cross country season before he straps on the skis for West Anchorage this winter. Then, it is on to his favorite mountain races, such as Mount Marathon.

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