One of the best runners ever to come through Robinson High School will take his talents to one of the top college programs in the country next season.
Robinson senior cross country and track standout Blake Hale recently signed a letter of intent to continue running at Indiana State University.
"This is pretty great," Hale said. "It has been one of my top goals to sign at a top college. It is a big accomplishment and it shows that all my hard work paid off."
Indiana State is among the top teams in the country in Division I in both track and cross country, which is something Hale can relate to. Robinson is among the state's best in both track and cross country as well and Hale has been a big part of that over the past four years.
"I think I will fit in well," Hale said. "It's a lot of pressure going into a program like that, but I like having that pressure on my shoulders. I should be able to handle it."
His high school coach believes he can handle it as well and thinks his decision to join the Sycamores will be prosperous for all involved.
"I have known coach (John) McNichols for many years, even before he came to Indiana State," RHS head coach Tony Cork said. "He is a very good coach and Indiana State has done very well in track and cross country. He is in good hands."
Hale has excelled in just about everything he's done in his high school career, as evidenced by his numerous all-conference and all-state accolades.
He earned All-Apollo Conference honors in cross country and track three times and was All-Little Illini Conference in cross country this past fall.
He also has four all-state awards to his credit, three of which are in cross country. He is also the first RHS male runner to earn all-state honors as a sophomore and the first male RHS runner to be all-state three times.
Hale owns the school record in the 800 with a time of 1:55.71. He also owns indoor 800 record at the EIU Indoor Meet with a time of 1:57.1 and holds the course record at Newton in cross country, among many other accolades.
While he knows where he will fit in in cross country, his role on the track team has not yet been defined.
"Coach said because I am so versatile, the could put me anywhere from the 800 to the two-mile and he even said I could be a candidate for steeplechase," Hale said. "Whatever they decide I will be best at is where I'll be."
"He could do about any level from 400 on up," Cork said. "I just want him to do his best. Looking at the improvement that a lot of kids that have gone to ISU have had, it's exciting. I don't want to put a cap on what I think he is capable of doing."
Hale has set lofty goals for himself at ISU, but he also knows it will take a lot of hard work to get there.
"I want to be an All-American and an NCAA Champion and help the school reach a team title as well," Hale said. "It's going to take a lot of focus and keeping my body healthy. But, I have 'trust in the training', as coach Cork says, and I will give it my all every day."
Cork noted he is happy for Hale and said the greatest reward for a coach is to see his athletes succeed.
"It makes the job so rewarding when you are a part of helping a young man or young lady succeed," Cork said. "To see kids that work hard and have talent go on and compete in college is very enjoyable. Blake knows he has a quite a bit of talent, but he is not worried about that. He is worried about getting the workouts in and making himself better. When you have those athletes with the talent and work ethic, it makes it very rewarding."
While Hale has worked hard to get where he is, he wanted to acknowledge a couple of important people for their help along the way.
"I want to thank my mom for her support and coach Cork for believing in me," Hale said. "I couldn't ask for a better coach or to come from a better program."