Runner of the Year: Hard word pays off for Marietta's Pleak
by Emily Horos
ehoros@mdjonline.com
December 10, 2012 01:13 AM | 2891 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hard work paid off for Marietta runner Ben Pleak this season.

After being ill for much of the 2011 season, the senior says he logged some extra miles during the summer and was pleased with the results.

Pleak won the Cobb County Cross Country Championship with a time of 15 minutes and 49.20 seconds and placed fifth in the state meet with a time of 16:41.62.

For his efforts this season Pleak is the 2012 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.

“It just took a lot of hard work in the summer and a lot of hard work in the season,” said Pleak. “It took a lot of back up from my family and my teammates and it just all came together, I guess.”

Pleak said he ran on average 65 miles a week and tried to focus on hills.

During the summer, Pleak ran as early as 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. The team trained at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.

“There is a hill right on the edge of the parking lot off Whitlock (Avenue) and we could run that hill,” said Pleak. “It was a big part of training.”

During the summer, Pleak said he trained more consistently than he had in years past.

“I trained religiously, I guess,” he said. “I didn’t ever take a day off or anything. I guess consistency is about the best thing you can have in running and I got that right this year. That is what helped me the most.”

Pleak said that regardless of how much training he does, something different happens when it’s time to race. He said he doesn’t listen to music to get pumped up, but rather tries not to think about the race.

“I’ve always felt like I was a better racer than a trainer just because I feel like when the time comes around, I can rise to the occasion and run my best even if I’m not feeling particularly good,” said Pleak.

Pleak said his best race of the season was at the Cobb County Championship.

“It was my birthday,” he said. “I had a really good week of training and tapered a little more than usual. I had my plan and knew exactly what I was going to do. It just turned out well.”

As instrumental as his training time was, Pleak said it wouldn’t have been the same without teammate Jake Bagwell pushing him on. Bagwell was often right behind Pleak. He finished in third place at the Cobb County Championships—just seven seconds behind Pleak. At the state meet he finished 10th—13 seconds after Pleak.

“Our No. 2 runner, Jake Bagwell, was right there with me most of the year,” said Pleak. “I don’t think anyone else in the state had as good of a training partner as I did. We trained consistently together and it is definitely good having someone there with you the whole time. Doing the same things you are doing and keeping you humble.

“Having him around was the best thing for me.”

Six of Marietta’s top seven runners were seniors. Something else Pleak said made a difference.

“We all had a common goal and kept each other going,” he said.

Pleak plans to keep his running shows on for a while. He will compete on the track team during his final year as a Blue Devil before pursuing college. He has been recruited by UNC-Greensboro, Ole Miss, Morehead State and Missouri.
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