All the goals that Lauren Blankenship scored for the Wesleyan girls soccer team kept her from picking up another sport in the spring.

So the star cross country runner, who won three high school state championships in that sport, never got to terrorize the state's athletes in track events like the one-mile and two-mile runs. Had she run track, she would have added greatly to her haul of state titles.

While cross country is still her favorite, Blankenship is doing quite well on the track. In just her second season of track, the Samford University sophomore earned Division

I-A All-American honors with a ninth-place finish in the 5,000-meter run at last weekend's NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. She became Samford's first Division I-A All-American in any sport.

Not bad for a track beginner.

"This was really only my second track season because I played varsity soccer (at Wesleyan)," Blankenship said. "I was wanting to pursue soccer in college and Libby Houk, my Bible teacher (and then Wesleyan's girls cross country coach), said, 'Lauren, why don't you run to stay in shape for soccer.' After that I won state my sophomore, junior and senior years in cross


The endurance of playing soccer helped Blankenship become a dominant cross country runner and she has taken just as quickly to track, which is hardly a huge change from cross country. But running shorter distances on a flat surface can be a bit of a challenge, one the 21-year-old has mastered well.

In two college seasons, Blankenship has rewritten the Samford record books in cross country and track. Last fall she became the first runner from her school to make the NCAA Championships in cross country. This year she shattered the Samford record in the 5,000 (she also holds the 3,000 record) with a time of 16 minutes, 16.43 seconds, taking nearly a minute off her previous school record and finished as an All-American.

The success in track should come as no surprise. As a forward in soccer, Blankenship showed outstanding speed, something she gets to use in the shorter track races more than in longer cross country events. She's become such a strong runner that she doesn't even think about soccer


"I never fully looked into soccer opportunities," Blankenship said. "But I think running in college has worked out pretty well for me."

It sure has. And it's only going to get better with more time on the track.

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at . His column appears on Thursdays.