As the 2012-13 school year comes to a close and students are starting to think about which school they want to attend and how to pay for their education, Jacob Benson, a senior at Alpena High School, answered that question Tuesday by signing a letter of intent to run cross country for Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids.
"I'm really excited to start, I put in so much hard work at Alpena and it's great to have the chance to continue my running career at Cornerstone," Benson said.
Benson, flanked by parents Jon and Jackie, signed his letter with a smile. He has been a key varsity track and cross country running for four years. He also played basketball.
News Photo by Eric Benac
Jacob Benson (center) signs a letter of intent to run cross country for Cornerstone University next season. He is flanked by father Jon and mother Jackie while cross country coach Joy Bullis (left) and boys track coach Bob Bennett watch.
Joy Bullis, his cross country coach, felt a lot of joy watching him grow through the years.
"You know, the change from a freshman runner to a senior is astonishing. Jake physical appearance has grown during this time as has his academic success. He's grown by leaps and bounds," Joy Bullis, Benson's high school cross country coach, said.
Benson spent no time as a runner on the junior varsity level, instead going straight to varsity as a freshman.
The challenge of college cross country doesn't phase him much.
"I did three sports at Alpena, track, cross country and basketball. I'm really used to a lot of practice and though I know it's going to be a lot tougher at college, I think playing three sports (in high school) has really prepared me for it," he said.
As a result, Benson plans to use his freshman year for conditioning but expects to make a run for nationals in his sophomore year, a desire Bullis has no doubts Benson will fulfill.
"Jake has a real dedication to running that will make him successful at a collegiate level. He knows he needs to eat, rest and work and he knows he'll be sore but he's ready for it," Bullis said.
Benson chose Cornerstone due to it's close knit, small-town atmosphere.
"There's a real community on campus, everybody knows everybody. They are there for you and everybody has a big smile on their face. It really reminded me a lot of Alpena and it was a big part of why I chose (Cornerstone)," he said.
Benson plans on studying communication and broadcasting at Cornerstone and hopes to become a sports broadcaster.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.