Going the distance

Lentz qualifies for XC state meet three years in a row

File photo
SSC’s Ben Lentz makes his way around Oasis Lake during the Panthers Lakeside Classic on Sept. 10.

STANDISH –– Ben Lentz, a senior at Standish-Sterling Central High School, has not only dedicated himself on the cross country course, competing at the state level for three years in a row, but in the classroom as well, becoming a leader on and off the course.

“I first started running road races in elementary school with my family over the summers,” Ben Lentz said. “However, I didn't start to run cross country until fifth grade when I joined the middle school Runner’s Club. I decided to run cross country in high school because I felt that I had the confidence and drive to compete in one of the toughest mental and physical sports in high school.”

Lentz said there are no excuses for a bad race; the only person to blame is yourself.

“I guess that’s what really got me into cross country –– you are to blame for failure due to lack of work ethic and commitment, no one else,” Lentz said. “But success is brought about by those that push you and encourage you as well as your own hard work. I am also involved in track and field and have wrestled since elementary school. Both of these sports have pushed me to always do my best no matter what and that has helped me to stay focused throughout my cross career.”

“It’s tough to talk about Ben solely in terms of sports because, having known him since he was young, there’s so much more to him,” cross country coach Dennis Pruder said. “What makes him so good in cross country and track is that he’s such a student of the sports, too. He is always trying to learn more about it. What works, what doesn’t work, how to improve, he asks a lot of questions about training, nutrition, health, racing, and is so well-rounded in all aspects of life.”

Pruder said Lentz has been involved in cross country and track all four years of high school and one of the benefits of his coaching has been seeing him grow since he was young.

“His entire family has been involved in cross country and track so I’ve been blessed to have him running everywhere since he was very young,” Pruder said. “The kid’s been running his whole life so sports has just been an extension of that.”

Pruder said because so many people know about Lentz’s success in sports, they don’t always hear about him as a person.

“Ben is an excellent student and works very hard to keep his grades at an elite level,” Pruder said. “He’ll go to a meet, race his heart out and then go meet up with his buddies to work on his studies. He’ll work on his schoolwork on the bus to keep his grades where he expects them to be. Stud-ents and teachers love him because he always treats others with respect and makes time for them. He’s involved in a lot of groups but never does them for a pat on the back. He just does them because he knows it’s the right thing to do. It’s just the way he’s wired.”

Pruder said Lentz has been one of the top racers in mid-Michigan, but the fact that his teammates selected him as their spiritual leader, along with co-captain Iron Man Jeff Schlicker, tells what his peers think of him.

“Benny is very goal-oriented. When he says he’ll do something, you know it will get accomplished,” Pruder said. “After his ninth grade year, he came to me and wanted to talk in private. His goal was to make it to the MHSAA state finals in three sports: cross country, wrestling, and track.”

“He set his sights very high, but then went about setting goals to accomplish it,” Pruder said. “He’s a rare breed that could sign up for any sport and do it well, not because he’s a natural, but because he works hard to make himself successful.”

Lentz said he hopes to always hold on to the work ethic that he has learned from cross country –– to push himself when no one else is watching and to apply it to life’s future endeavors.

“Qualifying for states three years in a row has been a great experience filled with plenty of memories and hard work that I will never forget,” Lentz said. “By wanting to do my best always, I have become the student I am today. My family, friends and coach Dennis Pruder have always pushed me to do better. But not in a negative way. Positivity and encouragement have come from everyone around me, especially my siblings and mom and dad.”

“My parents have never missed a cross meet and have always shown their support for me by giving me the confidence to succeed,” Lentz said. “No one has pushed me more than coach Pruder. He has always shown confidence in me and has trained me up to where I have finished my high school cross-country career. I envy his leadership and coaching abilities and hope to be half the influential coach he is, when I am older.”

Lentz said he plans on attending college to purse a career in engineering and also hopes to compete in collegiate track and field.

“The successes Ben’s had in school and sports are just a hint of all the good he’s about to experience in life,” Pruder said. “The interesting thing is so many people are asking about the end of his accomplishments but it’s just the beginning.”


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