Alumni Plaza the center of the Dowagiac campus


Blantons with Dr. Joe

SMC President Dr. Joe Odenwald with Alex Blanton and his parents, Allen and Gretchen

Alex Blanton signs with SMC Cross Country

Plainwell’s Alex Blanton Signs with SMC Cross Country

Published on May 7, 2021 - 10 a.m.

Plainwell High School’s Alex Blanton May 5 signed a letter of intent for Southwestern Michigan College’s fall return to National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) cross country.

Blanton joins Robert “Buster” Ward, William Westphal and Ben Gillesby of Cassopolis, Gavin Smith of Decatur and Samuel Reed-Loomis of Otsego committed to the Roadrunners for Fall 2021, along with two women, Mishawaka’s Bailee Shambaugh and Coloma’s Vanessa Crisenbery.

Blanton was flanked at the signing in the Performing Arts Center by his parents, Allen and Gretchen Blanton, and his coach, Scott Evans, who suggested he look into SMC.

Blanton started running in seventh grade as a miler on the track team. He grew up in Richardson, Texas, a Dallas suburb, until eighth grade, when his family moved to Allegan County and he started cross country. He has a younger brother in seventh grade.

Blanton turned in his 5K personal best of 18:16 at regionals junior year. In track, he runs the 400 and 800 meters for Plainwell, which, like Dowagiac and Edwardsburg, belongs to the Wolverine Conference.

He also participates on the Trojans’ swim team and works as a lifeguard. In fact, he saved a man’s life who was having a heart attack.

He played soccer until he gave it up to focus on cross country. “I dropped soccer when I started high school and realized I liked this more. I started soccer when I was 3 and did it all the way up until freshman year.”

Running “helps me feel free,” Blanton said. “It gets me out of my head” and relaxes him, since he also likes to strategize during races, which can lead to overthinking.

Running will give him ample time to mull his academic options, since he’s interested in pursuing one of three distinct areas — teaching, forestry to become a park ranger “because I like being outside” or physical therapy.

Work occupies his spare time. For the past year he’s been employed at Plainwell’s Meijer as a courtesy clerk, which includes corralling shopping carts.

“I’m going to work at Meijer and the pool and run this summer,” Blanton said. “I’m going to try doing an easy five miles on Mondays and Fridays. Then I’ll run to my grandparents’ in Gun Lake, which is about 13 miles, for my long run on Wednesdays. Tuesdays and Thursdays will be my workout days. I’ll try to do mile repeats of some sort or a tempo run.”

“I really like how (SMC’s) campus looks,” he said. “I’ve run in Dowagiac twice this year, and really like the trails. Plainwell has steeper hills. One is called Kilimanjaro,” as in Africa’s highest mountain, a dormant volcano in Tanzania. “I’ve run with my aunt in Oregon and really like the hilly trails there.”