After nonstop training, which included running 36 miles per week, Hannibal indoor track star Ben Slate thought he had finished his senior season just shy of his goal: a state qualifying time.
However, thanks to a twist of fate, he found himself lacing up a borrowed pair of spikes for one final race with a state berth in his sights, and he made the most of his opportunity.
Slate said he was in the right place at the right time when he got his second chance.
Dressed in street clothes, the team captain was cheering on a teammate during the state qualifying meet at Onondaga Community College when race officials asked if anyone wanted to run in the 1,000-meter event to fill out the field since an athlete was ill.
Without spikes, a jersey or other gear, Slate improvised.
He borrowed a teammate’s jersey, a pair of spandex from a friend and spikes – two sizes too small – from a Jordan Elbridge athlete.
Although the spikes weren’t ruby slippers, they were magic for Slate, who crushed his personal best in the 1,000-meter by six seconds and qualified for the state meet in the process.
“I just had a great race,” Slate said. “I worked hard in cross country, did everything my coach wanted me to and it paid off.”
With the qualifying time under his belt, Slate joined other Section III athletes to form a team in the 1,000-meter relay.
In the state tournament March 1, they finished 10th in the intersectional relay.
Now, with the indoor track season completed, Slate will turn his focus to outdoor track — his final sports season of his high school career — before making the transition into college athletics and, more importantly to him, academics.
“I haven’t decided which college yet, I know I’ll definitely be running,” Slate said. “I want to focus on my academics and continue my running, but I’m looking more for academics.”
The standout runner noted that Hannibal Coaches Dom Pike and Dan Pawlewicz helped mold him into the person he is today.
“Mr. Pike and Mr. Pawlewicz, they both pushed me and helped shape my work ethic,” Slate said. “They said, ‘You can be the best runner, but you have to have the grades, too.’ And ever since I heard that I’ve been working hard.”
That hard work has translated into an 88 GPA and two academic scholarships, which Slate hopes to take to either Niagara University or Utica College.
He is planning on pursuing a degree in biology before moving on to medical school.
If Slate continues his hard work at the next level, he would become the first person in his family to graduate from college.
From there, he would add the initials “M.D.” after his name.
“Everyone in my family is just supporting me,” Slate said. “They have encouraged me to do what I want to do and have told me to not let anyone change my mind. That’s how I see it.”
For Coach Pike, Slate’s efforts have not gone unnoticed.
“He’s just a great kid and a great representative of the Hannibal community,” Pike said. “He works hard and it’s nice to see him have the success he’s experienced.”
Slate is the son of Stacy and Jerry Slate of Hannibal.