LA JOLLA, Calif. —What a difference a year makes.
One day after finishing second overall at the California Baptist Lancer Invitational to open the 2017 season, Sam Blake’s junior campaign came to an end due to a broken foot.
One year later, Blake is back healthy and coming off a 25th-place individual finish out of 180 participants at the Mark Covert Classic on Sept. 1. His performance helped The Tritons claim a second-place finish in the season-opening meet.
Although he’s not feeling any lingering effects from the injury, Blake knows he must ease himself back into action in order to be his strongest toward the end of the season.
“As far as the injury goes, I don’t feel any reservations,” Blake said recently after practice at Spanos Performance Center. “But with that in mind, it’s given me a different perspective.
“Right now, (early meets) are just a stepping point. It’s a long season and most of our (big) races are in November. So just thinking about coming through what I’ve gone through, (the first meet) was just another check in the box.”
UC San Diego head coach Nate Garcia has seen firsthand how much work Blake has put into his comeback, and is excited to see the results.
“It’s been a long road back for him,” said Garcia. “He’s worked really hard this past year to get back to full health.
“What I want as much as anything else is for him to get some payoff from all that hard work. If he does what I know he’s capable of doing, it’s going to be really good news for our team too.”
Aside from the ability to race again, Blake acknowledged the connection he has with his teammates is what he enjoys most about running cross country.
“I like being with others who all have the common interest,” he said. “We all like running, we’re all UC San Diego students and have a similar mindset.
“I can train and be physically fit with them, or we can be study partners and great friends. The type of camaraderie that develops during this part of the season is my favorite part, and it makes it even easier to run for each other and for the school.”
UC San Diego returns to action next Saturday, Sept. 15, when the Tritons compete in the University of San Diego Invitational at Tecolote Shores beginning at 8 a.m.