Bennett To Compete In The USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships
DES MOINES, Iowa – Drake University assistant track and field coach LaRon Bennett will compete in the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Drake Stadium for the second time in his career this week.
However, unlike his first USA Outdoor Championship appearance in Des Moines in 2010 where he finished sixth, he’ll be running on what has become his home track this time around when he steps into the blocks for the men’s 400-meter hurdle preliminary heats on Thursday at 4:10 p.m.
“This is the first time ever I’ve competed in this meet on the track I train on,” Bennett said. “I’ve always had to travel across the country. But now, I live 12 minutes from the track.”
Bennett hopes that home-track advantage will pay off against an extremely deep field in the event.
“Not having to figure out the track is huge,” Bennett said. “Each track is a little different. At Georgia, we had longer straightaways, Oregon has more of a longer straightaway too. So when you’re not familiar with a track, you have to spend your practice time figuring out the track. Knowing this track is a big advantage.”
Every advantage will be critical for Bennett in a field that features the likes of Johnny Dutch, Kerron Clement, Justin Gaymon and Michael Tinsley. Bennett, who has spent his entire career racing against those competitors, is more than familiar with their ability and the Drake Stadium crowd should be as well. In April, Tinsley won the 400-meter hurdle London Games Rematch at the Drake Relays with a 48.55 finish while Dutch was second in 48.73 followed by Gaymon in fourth. Bennett crossed the finish line in sixth place with a time of 51.47.
“I feel a lot more confident than I felt at the Drake Relays, that’s for sure,” Bennett said. “I feel like I have my rhythm now. I moved here in November and was trying to balance coaching and training and now that I have Coach [Natasha] Kaiser-Brown’s system under my belt, I’m a lot more confident.”
Since the Drake Relays, Bennett has poured his focus into training Drake’s sprinters and hurdlers while balancing his own training and family. Prior to becoming a full-time collegiate coach, he was a volunteer assistant coach at his alma mater, Georgia. As a student-athlete at there he was team captain and three-time All-American. In addition to his sixth-place showing at the 2010 USA Outdoor Championships, he has also competed in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 US Olympic Trials and advanced to the semifinals in 2012. He is hopeful his concentrated training over the past months will make up for his lack of racing as he aims to return to his post-collegiate form.
“Who’s endurance and race rhythm is the best at this point in time,” Bennett claims will be the key to this week’s competition. “That’s where these guys have a leg up on me. I haven’t raced in more than a month to focus on my training. Usually you’ll try to hit up two or three races going into a race like this to make sure you’re sharper. But I decided to put all my eggs in one basket and focus on training for this race.”
Bennett will race in the second of three preliminary heats with the top four times in each head and the next best four times advancing to Friday’s semifinals at 7:04 p.m. The top four in each semifinal will then line up in the finals on Saturday at 4:36 p.m. with the coveted spots to represent Team USA at the IAAF World Championships August 10 - August 18 in Moscow, Russia, on the line.
“My expectation is always to win, but I want to put myself in position to qualify for the team,” Bennett said. “My first goal is to get back to where I was when I finished my collegiate career. If I hit that this weekend, I would be a happy man.”