By BEN JOHNSON
Running has been quite good to Ben Grant. It's landed him a relay state championship in high school, and it allowed him to go to college and get a free education.
Yet, it's still not done giving back to Grant.
Grant, a member of Tahlequah's state championship two-mile relay team in 2010, recently signed a letter of intent to run track at Missouri Southern, after spending the last two seasons at Coffeyville Community College.
Turning down offers that could have taken him to places such as Los Angeles, South Carolina or Kentucky, Grant chose Missouri Southern because its Joplin, Mo., location isn't too far from his home in Tahlequah.
"I chose MSSU because it offered the right academics, a great track program, and close proximity to my loved ones — all at an affordable price," Grant said. "Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., was really the only other school that I was seriously considering other than MSSU. But I had gotten calls from schools in Los Angeles, South Carolina and in Kentucky.
Now he'll take what he's learned in junior college and apply it to the NCAA Division II level.
"Coffeyville has benefited me greatly. I’ve been fortunate enough to be coached by some of the best coaches on the collegiate level, train with some amazing athletes, and it shows in my times on the track," Grant said. "Self-accountability has always been a requirement of my training, and I believe that’s what I’ve learned even more so being at the collegiate level."
In 2010, Grant teamed up with Moe Brown, Ara Poteete and Rusty Fowler to beat all the other two-mile relay teams in Class 5A. Now with a new set of teammates, Grant is again enjoying more success in the two-mile relay.
Last season, Grant was a member of Coffeyville's two-mile indoor relay team — along with Will Taylor, Kelvin Musgrove and Carlton Sheppard — that finished fifth at the national meet, which landed it on the Coaches Association All-American squad. That performance helped the Ravens finish third overall at the national indoor meet.
After being almost exclusively outside in high school competitions, Grant said meets indoors are unlike anything he'd ever experienced before.
"After not having raced indoor at all in high school, it was very different," Grant said. "There’s really no better way to describe it but as just being different. The turns are tighter, the races are much more physical and the lack of air movement can be overwhelming sometimes."
But southern Kansas — much like eastern Oklahoma — can offer up some chilly temperatures in the winter time, making indoor track that much more enjoyable.
"I enjoy running indoors," Grant said, "because it is nice to get out of the freezing cold and actually run some good times."
Grant, in the 1,000-meter run, has already qualified for the regional indoor meet in Lawrence, Kan., on Feb. 22. With another qualifying time, Grant will race for the Ravens at the national indoor meet in New York City on March 7 before.
Then the Ravens will begin their outdoor campaign, which will be Grant's last at the junior college level.
Once he gets to Missouri Southern, Grant said he's willing to compete in any number of running events.
"I plan to participate in anything ranging between the 400 and the mile, but really if I start to do well in a particular distance, that may change things," Grant said. "I’ll be training with the cross country team during the fall to keep my endurance up and get some mileage in also."
For now, though, Grant will in full-on training mode with his Division II career around the corner.
"If I can run my goal times during outdoor and perform like I want to at the national level, I’ll be prepared for Division II," Grant said. "I’m trusting in my training that I’m doing now and taking the necessary steps to prepare for a successful final season. I do want to perform well, and if I keep doing what I’m doing I think that strong finish will be there."