Ben Chao is a 2019 University School graduate, who will compete in cross country and distance track events for Carleton College.
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1) What were some of the highlights of your high school cross country and track careers?
One major highlight for me was improving significantly between my junior and senior years, which I believe helped me get to State's twice in cross country and indoor track.
In my career, those were the first opportunities I ever had to compete at the state championships, allowing me to experience a high level of competition and begin making a name for myself. The energy I felt at those meets were unlike any other high school race.
2) Did you encounter any struggles or adversity along the way that you had to overcome?
Personally, I never had any season-ending injuries or other serious health issues, besides sometimes getting worn out by the end of the season. I am very thankful that I was able to stay relatively healthy during my career.
However, the challenges I faced dealt with my motivation. First, switching to a new school in the middle of high school forced me to adapt to a new environment, team, training program, coaching staff, and new regulations. I was unable to compete during most of cross country and outdoor track during my junior year due to eligibility rules, which gave me fewer opportunities.
Thankfully, I could gain the race experience I needed during my senior year. Another motivational challenge I encountered was due to representation. In my experience, the number of serious Asian American distance runners were few and had little spotlight at the top levels. At times, I wondered whether I was an anomaly in the running community and whether I even belonged. However, I was still able to bond with teammates and competitors through running and I made many friends in the end.
3) Aside from the competition, what was the best thing about being apart of University School's program?
The best thing about my school's running program was the amount of resources and depth we had. Our distance team had a lot of strong competitors and that really helped score at meets. On top of that, we had access to knowledgeable coaches from different backgrounds. I would spend evenings after practices chatting with my coaches about training, nutrition, and meets.
4) Are there any coaches or teammates that you've worked with over the past four years that you'd like to thank?
I would like to thank and give a shoutout to Coach Somers, Coach Lewis, Coach Taylor, and my favorite long run partner, Justin Iler.
Ben Chao capped off a successful career at University School and will now continue his studies and athletics at Minnesota's Carleton College.
5) What are your plans and goals for the future? Do you intend on continuing with the sport in college or in another capacity?
I will be competing at Carleton College for cross country and track. I would like to see how much more I can improve at the collegiate level. After that, I have no other plans but I will have an open mind to other opportunities.
6) What advice would you give to a younger athlete who's hoping to have a successful and enjoyable high school career?
My advice to a younger athlete is to have an open mind towards the advice from coaches and peers. Bond with teammates and competitors over the love of running, as well as through training together (although runners don't have to be your only friends). Use your improvements and pr's to motivate and inspire yourself. Look up to the older runners who may seem fast now, and imagine being in their shoes. And specifically towards serious younger Asian American distance runners: running does not have to be just another activity on college applications! Do it for the love of the sport! If my career has done anything to inspire you, then I have done my job.