An entire town beside him, and an angel above, a young Bulldog strides on
“This season is for her. This whole year is pretty much for her.”
BY CHRIS RUFF
RAMONA, CA — What started as a triumphant summer for Ramona Junior Cross Country runner Dylan Blankenbaker, quickly turned to a nightmare when, his grandmother, Sharrel Blankenbaker, was gunned down by a disturbed man outside an Amarillo, Texas convenience store. Sharrel had earlier picked up Dylan and his sister Cassidy from the airport in Texas and was en route to her home in Oklahoma. Mrs. Blankenbaker stepped in front of the man after he grabbed and attempted to force her granddaughter Cassidy(Dylan’s sister), into his vehicle at gunpoint. Shortly after Mrs. Blankenbaker stepped in front of the man, he fired what ultimately was a fatal shot to her lung. Local San Diego story here:
Left - Family Photo: Dylan Blankenbaker
The 2009-2010 athletic seasons could be viewed as nothing less than a great success for Dylan Blankenbaker. He had recovered from a broken foot suffered in the middle of his Freshman track campaign to complete a Cross Country season where he won individual titles in the Frosh/Soph Division at the Vaquero Stampede, The Soph Division of the Mt. Carmel Invite, and finished as the runner-up at the Valley League Championships(16:33 for 3.1M). Blankenbaker’s Cross season culminated with a 7th Place finish the San Diego Section DII Championships (16:51 for 3.04M) and a berth to the California State Meet, where he finished 49th (16:09).
Blankenbaker’s track season was no less successful as he achieved personal records in the 800(2:01.60), 1600(4:20.69), and 3200(9:45.50). Though he was injured during a portion of his freshman track season, he bettered his 2009 1600 meters time by nearly 24 seconds, an improvement he credited to his being injury free and the training philosophy of his new coach Steve Albanese. “He’s more mileage and training through all the way to league without tapering for anything,” said Blankenbaker when asked about the change in training philosophy that accompanied the coaching transition to Albanese. “We ran low to mid 50’s(miles) all the way up until league, where we dropped to about 35.” As a team, the Bulldogs finished with the San Diego DII Section Championship!
Family Photos: (Left) Prayer Tree Left at Blankenbaker Home (Right) Sign Made by Ramona Community
While sitting on the lowest bench of the Ramona Bulldogs Stadium, Dylan was asked to describe his feelings about his hometown of Ramona. “I love it, I’d come back after college, I’d definitely come back. Everyone knows everybody here…I guess it’s a big, “small town,” he explained. The “Big “small town”” of Ramona has been an integral part of the healing from this summer’s tragedy not only for Dylan, but also his entire family. “The support has been amazing! The community has sent their condolences and letters wondering how we’re doing. There is this tree that everyone has been tying ribbons onto for us. We had a little get together a few Sundays ago where people from all over San Diego that we know, all came out to tell us how much they love us,” said Blakenbaker. “It’s been just amazing.”
Despite what has happened this summer, Blankenbaker has chosen to look forward, this time with his sights set on not only returning to the California Cross Country State Meet as an individual, but also bringing his team along for the ride. “I’d like to get my team to State. I think we have a good chance. I’d like to place in the top 25 individually at the State Meet,” he explained. Ramona has a solid group of returners led by Blankenbaker, and solidified by Chance Vernardo-Richardson(12), Nathan Morgan(12), Tanner Perfect(12), and Alec Richardson(11).
With the town of Ramona as an army of support, a formidable returning team of athletes, a fiercely loyal collection of family and friends, and a special angel looking down from above, Dylan Blankenbaker will certainly have a great start to fulfilling his personal and team goals he has set for the Cross Country and Track seasons ahead.
“Honestly, I think she(Sharrel Blankenbaker) would have done what she did for anyone that was in that situation,” Blankenbaker said describing his grandmother’s sacrifice. “I got to experience my grandma’s love for us and what she was willing to do for us. Next to my parents, she was my biggest fan!”
“This Season is for her. This whole year is pretty much for her.”
Chris Ruff: (619)339-7502 email@example.com
Mr. Ruff is a special contributor to ca.milesplit.us, and the head Track and Field Coach at Del Norte High School(San Diego,CA).