Blanton signs to run for the Tigers

Summerville High School senior Brianna Blanton (seated), on March 9, signed with the Clemson University Track and Field Program. Joining her at the signing celebration were Summerville coaches Jim and Eileen Kilbreth, Steve Wilson, John McKissick and Joe Call and family members Bo and Suzanne Blanton, Samantha Blanton, Bray Blanton and Brodie Blanton.

Summerville track coach Steve Wilson noticed Brianna Blanton’s knack for running when she was in first grade. More recently, it caught the attention of the coaches for the Clemson University track team.

On March 9, Blanton signed to run for the Tigers’ track and field program. The Summerville High School senior chose Clemson over Tennessee, South Carolina, the Air Force Academy and several division two colleges that have shown interest in her talents.

“It was a big decision but my dream when I was little was to run for Clemson so now that I have a chance to fulfill it why not,” Blanton said. “My dad went there as well as my brother and sister and I just love Clemson.”

The bonus is the Tigers’ track team is ranked among the nation’s top 10 teams. In Blanton, Clemson is getting a veteran runner who is accomplished in the 400-meter run, 800, 4x400 relay and 4x800 relay.

The PE coaches at Flowertown Elementary School were impressed with Blanton’s passion for running early on. Wilson took an interest in her and encouraged her parents to encourage her to compete. They did and when the Summerville Storm youth track team was formed they signed her up.

By the time Blanton was in sixth grade, she was fast enough to compete at the varsity level. Recognizing this, Wilson thought it would be a fun experience for the runner if he put her in to run a race at that year’s Outback Classic meet. It was, but it got him in trouble with the high school league because while she was good enough to compete at that level, she was not old enough.

Her seventh-grade year she was old enough and joined the Green Wave varsity team. That summer, she qualified to compete in the USA Track and Field nationals, where she placed seventh in the 800.

As an eighth-grader, her performance at the 4-A state championship meet earned her all-state honors in the 400, 800, 4x400 relay and 4x800 relay events. She, Maria Rocha, Sydney Hazel and Aisha-Maree Frazier joined forces on the Wave 4x800 relay team that placed first at the state meet, setting a new state record in the process with a time of 9 minutes, 27.24 seconds.

A leg injury prevented her from running during her freshman year, but she returned to the track the next year and turned in another all-state performance in the 800. As a junior last year, she won the 800 at the state meet and helped the 4x400 relay team claim a state title.

Blanton has also been one of the top runners for the Wave Cross Country team for the past several years. One summer she helped the Wave team win the Portland to the Coast distance race that features hundreds of high school teams. Her team set a new record for the high school course.

Blanton says several coaches have helped with her development. In addition to Wilson, that group of coaches includes Kelly Hazel, Bob Crowley, Jim and Eileen Kilbreth, Eric Seitz, Britt Blanton and Joe Call.

“She has been coached by a lot of people and they all say she is a pleasure to coach and that she is the real deal,” Wilson said.

When she gets to Clemson, the coaches will probably have her focus on the 800. However, she says she’s up for whatever they will allow her to do. In the meantime, she is looking forward to her senior season.

“We have a lot of talent this year,” she said. “Hopefully if we all work hard we can compete for a state championship.”

Contact Roger Lee @ 873-9424 ext. 213 or rlee@journalscene.com.