Wolverine Athlete Spotlight: Ben Flanagan

Oct. 3, 2013

Freshman Ben Flanagan -- from Ontario, Canada -- discusses his collegiate debut at the Cowboy Jamboree, adjusting to college life in the U.S. and his transition from hockey to distance running.

B. Flanagan Ben Flanagan
Kitchener, Ontario

On his collegiate debut at the Cowboy Jamboree ... "I think everything generally went well. It was a great first experience considering it's early in the season, and we didn't really taper -- we just ran our regular weekly mileage. The results we got were pretty impressive, but with that being said, there are definitely things that we want to work on. Obviously with this being the first race of the season things are going to be a little new. My debut personally was an awesome experience. It was a bit overwhelming being in such a deep, competitive field, but being able to represent the block M for the first time was really special."

On his prior experience running at 8K helping his transition to the collegiate level ... "I started running 8Ks in grade 10 because I trained with some university athletes in high school. My coach, who also coached the university athletes, put me in a couple university races as well so that's when I started running at 8K. I probably have about six or seven 8Ks under my belt at this point. Generally, in high school, we bump up the race distance each year instead of running a 5K every year. I've progressed into it throughout high school and at the international meets I did as well. It's definitely helped a lot because I'm about three years ahead in the transition. I still need to transition to the 10K by the end of the season, but I think having the experience I've had, it won't be as much of an issue."

On adjusting to the higher training mileage at the collegiate level ... "I'm doing 80 miles a week, and that's probably the highest I'll get to. The big difference from high school to college is the consistency in mileage. I hit 72 miles one week in high school, but besides that I was in the 60-65 range. I've never finished a week at 75 miles on a race week -- for example last week. The way Coach Gibby handles it, he made it very easy to transition and it has felt pretty natural. It's going pretty well, but it's definitely a big jump from high school."

On adjusting to being a collegiate student-athlete in the U.S. ... "When we have recruits on campus, I tell them that I've only been here for a month, and it feels like I've been here way longer. The team is extremely welcoming, and Coach Gibby is the easiest coach to talk to in the NCAA in my opinion. It's an atmosphere that's comfortable for all of us, so we're able to easily adapt. Being able to train with the guys and having the motivation to keep up with the upperclassmen has really helped all of us adapt in an athlete sense. From an academic sense, having all the support that Michigan provides, such as our academic advisor, Sara Rechnitzer, and the academic center itself, has really helped to manage our time better and make sure we're on top of things."

On why he chose to attend Michigan ... "Michigan always was a really good option for me, but I didn't get in contact with Coach Gibby until later in the process. I'm really excited it worked out because considering how the process went; it almost seemed unlikely that I would end up here after starting so late. The biggest thing was the balance of academics and athletics. I'm going to university, so I obviously wanted to get a good education, but I'm going there to compete, so I wanted to have a great athletic situation as well. Michigan fits that perfectly, and as a bonus it's only four hours from my house -- being that I'm from a different country. The crucial factor was how well I got along with the guys and realizing the development this team, that helps a lot. I feel like this team has progressively gotten better, and I want to be part of the development. The final factor in the decision was definitely Coach Gibby. He came to my house for a home visit about two weeks before I committed. The way he spoke caught my attention -- our goals lined up perfectly, his training regimen is something I'm used to, and it was the perfect fit.

"Now being here and being able to put on the block M, the thing that's really special to me is the history of Michigan and the people who have worn it before me. Being from Canada, we have a bunch of Ontario athletes who have done tremendous things at Michigan and post-collegiately, like Nate Brannen and Kevin Sullivan. It's really cool to consider myself in a position that they were once in, considering how well recognized and talented those athletes are."

On something people may not know about him ... "Well to fill the Canadian stereotype, I played hockey for about 12 years before transitioning to running (laughing). I was always pretty good at running -- we had an annual meet in elementary school, and I always got really excited for it because it was a sport that I excelled in. As I got older and didn't get much bigger, hockey really wasn't the right place for me. Once I started gaining my passion for track and cross country, I started to lose my passion for other sports. Hockey was tough to give up though -- my dad coached me a lot, and I played for a long time. It was tough to give up, but it was definitely worth it. I still like to go play pond hockey here and there when I can.

"I'm actually going to go watch the Michigan hockey team play this weekend because they play an exhibition game against Waterloo -- the school my sisters go to back in Ontario. I bought 13 hockey tickets for my big family that's going to come down for the game."

• Previous Spotlight: August Pappas