BOYS TRACK

Portage's Blake overcomes injury to qualify for state track finals in four events

2013-05-29T17:30:00Z 2013-05-30T01:39:05Z Portage's Blake overcomes injury to qualify for state track finals in four eventsJim Peters jim.peters@nwi.com, (219) 548-4363 nwitimes.com

It's called the sprint buffet, a cornucopia of events that includes two 100-meter dashes, two 200s, another 100 on the 400 relay and a 400 on the 1,600 relay.

For Jeron Blake, Friday's Valparaiso Regional marked the first time the Portage senior was able to complete the circuit this season.

"I just wanted to see how I'd feel, doing the last event, hoping I'd hold up," Blake said.

Slowed by an early March partial hamstring tear and resulting complications, the veteran of two state finals and winner of four medals was forced to play a waiting game.

"It was a very methodical comeback," coach John Kappes said. "One event, one race, then try two. It was just progressively climbing that hill to get to that workload. We didn't change the game plan, we just redefined the process."

It was easier said than done. Blake's hamstring healed, but as it did, blood capsulized in the muscle, causing a feeling Kappes described as having sandpaper sprinkled into the muscle. Therapy constituted rubbing a metal implement on his leg to break up the mass.

"There were days I didn't even feel like running anymore," Blake said. "People said to be patient and I listened to them. It was always on my mind to get back. I watched my team, what they were doing, and I wanted to be there to help them. I just kept waiting and waiting until I was ready to go."

By mid-April, Blake was cleared, easing his way back into training as well as competition. He didn't do full workouts until after sectionals.

"Jeron approached his comeback with patience and maturity," Kappes said. "He had a great attitude. He stayed focused on the goal. As a coach, it was hard to hold him back, but we had to be realistic. The good side was at least it happened early."

In addition to the physical healing, Blake had mental hurdles to clear. While the hamstring was better, he still felt side effects.

"Jeron's a finely-tuned athlete. He knows when something's feeling different and it was messing with him," Kappes said. "He had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. He was approaching the line with it on his mind, which is normal. We just had to get to where he was pushing it down the list. I would say now it's well down the list, if it's even on it."

Blake said all reservations are gone. It's now a matter of getting his legs and lungs to full strength.

"I don't think about it anymore," he said. "I'm just pushing myself to get better. People started saying I wasn't going to be back or get back to where I was, that just pushed me more and more to get back like I was."

While Blake's not there yet, he's close. He became Portage's first athlete to qualify for state in four events, crediting Lorenzo Wells for pulling through the 1,600 relay.

"He raises the level of everybody around him," Kappes said.

Part of Blake is happy simply to make it back. Another part of him wants to add a final exclamation point.

"I'm really thinking big things in the 200, breaking the (school) record, getting top three in the relays," he said. "I'll be relaxed, but once the race starts, it'll be all adrenaline."

Because Blake's recovery is still ongoing, Kappes isn't harboring any expectations, but he rules out nothing.

"This is what you see with talent and desire," Kappes said. "I've never seen Jeron not do something he said he was going to do. You get the right conditions, with that atmosphere, it could be electric. It's almost like it's meant to be."

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