When he was a member of the Harlan County High School cross country team, Ben Graham grew accustomed to competing on the state level with the Black Bears. As a member of the Lindsey WIlson team, Graham is now competing, and excelling, on the national level.
Graham earned All-American honors earlier this month by placing eighth in the 3,000-meter race walk at the NA
IA Indoor Track and Field National Championships in Findlay, Ohio.
“I’m very proud of the effort and the hard work Ben Graham put into the 3,000 meter race walk this indoor season,” said Lindsey Wilson assistant coach David Claybrooks. “Ben had a personal record at all four of his indoor meets this year. I hope future track stars see how hard Ben worked this season to earn his first ever trip to nationals and earn his first All-American honors. Ben showed everyone that a small town kid can do big time things at the highest level on the biggest stage.”
Graham’s success was no surprise to Harlan County coach Ryan Vitatoe, who has several former runners currently on college rosters.
I’m very happy for Ben and for his accomplishment as an All American,” he said. “He’s always been a hard worker, and he is the shining example for the kids of Harlan County that you can take your sport as far as you want to take it, if you’re willing to work hard enough. Race walking is a unique and very challenging event for track and field. It’s only offered at the NAIA level, which speaks even louder for his accomplishment. He is one of the top eight race walkers at the collegiate level in the entire United States. That’s amazing, and I’m so very happy for him. He is deserving of this honor, and it’s something he’ll carry with him for the rest of his life.”
Graham made amazing strides during the course of his junior season, starting with a time of 16:57.81 at the Findlay Classic. Two weeks later, he completed the course at Centerville, Ohio, in a time of 15:14.11. The next week he followed that with 15:06.82 at the Goshen Racewalk meet in Indiana. At the NAIA Indoor Track and Field National Meet, Graham set a personal best with a time of 14:41.10, placing eighth.
“It feels pretty great,” Graham said. “All of the hard work I’ve put in this year really paid off with the two and a half minute drop in my time. At the beginning of the year, there was no reason to even believe I would make it to nationals, much less get top eight.”
Nine former Harlan County High School runners are currently members of college cross country programs, including Donavan Johnson, David Lee, Tyler Turner, Jennifer Graham and Kassie Rouse at Alice Lloyd, Kimberly Miller at Asbury, Miranda Epperson at Union College and Graham at Lindsey WIlson.