Neil Blanken: I have to use as much speed and power as possible

Athlete name: Neil Blanken
School: Bluffton High School
Year of graduation: 2016
Hobbies: Playing the drums, Watching movies, boxing
Best marks: Discus : 174' 8"  Shot put : 52' 4"  Hammer: 154' 7"

How do you look at your
number one state discus ranking and number three shot put ranking?
I take the ranking with a grain of salt. I'm taking things one step at a time. You'll never know who could come up and get past you. Of course I'm happy with the fact that i'm ranked number one in discus and number one in shot in the state, but I'm not going to get too comfortable with where i'm at currently. The season is still young. 

Training, how do you prepare for multiple events? 
Being a rotational thrower in the shot put and the discus, the technique in both of the events are similar, so I practice both events about the same amount each week when preparing for a meet. I do a lot of throwing and a good bit of lifting to make sure that I'm feeling explosive for a meet. 

Do you have a favorite event, and why?
My favorite event has always been the discus. It's my best event and I love the fact that brute strength and size isn't necessary to get it to go far. its all technique and finesse.

How would you rate your performances so far this season?
I would rate my performances so far as an 8/10. its great that I won my last two meets in both the shot and discus, but I'd still like to be throwing further than what I have been recently.

Where do you see yourself going the rest of the season after this past weekend?
I see myself finishing the season really strong. I know how to train smarter and I know what I need to do with my training so that I make sure that I peak properly. When I reach my peak phase I'm expecting my marks to go up a good bit.

What are your post high school plans? 
After high school I'll be headed to East Carolina University to throw for their track team. I'm not sure on what ill be majoring in or what kind of career field I'd go into. But it'll be a good experience during these next four years.

What are your goals for the the rest of the season?
I would like to finish the rest of the season with improving my PR to at least 190 feet in the discus and 56 feet in the shot put. My main goals are to medal at Taco Bell, win my region and win state.

What do you remember the most from the 2015 season?
What I remember most from the 2015 season is standing on the third place podium reflecting on a disappointing season, after knowing that I had done much better at state the year before.

How did winter training go?
Winter training went really well. I was throwing and lifting a lot so I can get my athleticism up. I tried my best to break down my technique to make it as smooth as possible, even though I still have a lot of things to work on technically.

How long have you been competing in track and field and how did you get started?
I started to compete in track and field in seventh grade, and I had initially wanted to be a runner. But after the first couple of practices I found out that running might not be the best option for me. So after my running career had been cut short I picked up the discus and the shot put and I wasn't half bad at it, so I started practicing and I started liking throwing a lot.

Do you have a specific motivation? 
My motivation is knowing that I have to prove people wrong when I throw. I don't have the typical thrower body type, I'm on the smaller side, so most throwers and coaches who have never heard of me or seen me compete wont expect anything more than 40 feet in the shot put or 120 feet in the discus.

How do you look at competition?
In competition I just try to throw as far as I can. I don't worry about how far any of my competitors throw. If they beat me, then they beat me. If I win then I win. I just try to make every throw farther than the last.

Will you be competing out of state this season? 
I don't think I'll be competing out of the state this season much. I'll try to make it to New Balance Outdoor Nationals this summer, but that's probably the only competition I'll go to out of state. 

What do you enjoy about the Bluffton team?
I really enjoy the fact that our team is so energetic at practice and at meets. We have so many underclassmen on our team that have a lot of potential. They do track because they simply enjoy the sport. They don't view practice as a chore, they view it as something that they really like to do.

Do you have a pre-event tradition?
I never really had a pre-event tradition or ritual or anything like that, but in the last few meets I experimented with skipping rope before I compete to get my blood pumping, since I had a problem with throwing cold last year.

What event strategy works best for you?
My only event strategy is to relax when I get in the circle, clear my head, and just throw it. I try not to get too tense. The more tense I get, the more out of control my throws get.

Do you have a technique that you prefer or have been trained to use?
I use the spin technique in the discus and the shot put. Being a smaller thrower, I have to use as much speed and power as possible, so I spin instead as just doing a basic standing throw at the front of the circle.

What has been your biggest challenge in the sport? How did you overcome the challenge? 
My biggest challenge so far was coming up from middle school, being used to throwing the 4K shot put and the 1K discus, to now having to throw the 12-pound shot put and the 1.6K discus as a freshman. I had to work really hard to get my strength up for the heavier disc and shot.

Favorite track and field memory?
My favorite track and field memory was winning the state championship in the discus in 2014. I never thought I could do it so It was such a shocker when I did.

When you are not competing what is your favorite thing to do?
When I'm not competing my favorite thing to do is to play the drums and listen to music. I love music and I think everyone should try to learn how to play at least one instrument.

Favorite quote?
"If you cant throw with the best, go run with the rest."

Do you see yourself coaching in the future?
Maybe, it just depends on how things line up. I would definitely enjoy coaching but it's hard to say right now.

If there is one thing you could do in the world what would it be and why? 
I would probably have to go to New Zealand, it's a beautiful place that I've always wanted to visit.