SAHS alum Ben Blankenship qualifies for 2016 Olympics

Stillwater graduate Ben Blankenship embraces Ponies coach Scott Christensen after placing third in the finals of the 1,500 meters during the Olympic Track and Field Trials on Sunday in Eugene, Ore. (Contributed photo)
Stillwater graduate Ben Blankenship embraces Ponies coach Scott Christensen after placing third in the finals of the 1,500 meters during the Olympic Track and Field Trials on Sunday in Eugene, Ore. (Contributed photo)

Ben Blankenship finalized his late summer plans on Sunday while earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.

The 2007 Stillwater Area High School graduate placed third in the finals of the 1,500-meter race to qualify for his first Olympics. Blankenship posted a time of 3:36.18 to place behind Matthew Centrowitz (3:34.09) and Robby Andrews (3:34.88).

Blankenship held a slim lead with 400 meters to go before Centrowitz took control with a sizzling 53.95 final lap. Blankenship held off a late charge from Leo Manzano (3:36.62), a silver medalist in the 2012 Olympics, to claim the third and final bid.

Stillwater graduate Ben Blankenship embraces Ponies coach Scott Christensen after placing third in the finals of the 1,500 meters during the Olympic Track and Field Trials on Sunday in Eugene, Ore. (Contributed photo)
Stillwater graduate Ben Blankenship embraces Ponies coach Scott Christensen after placing third in the finals of the 1,500 meters during the Olympic Track and Field Trials on Sunday in Eugene, Ore. (Contributed photo)

Before embarking on a stellar career at the University of Minnesota, Blankenship, a member of the Oregon Track Club Elite team, was a two-time state champion in the 1,600 meters for the Ponies in 2006 and 2007.

The Summer Games will be held in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 7-21, with the track and field events taking place during Week 2. The first round of the 1,500 meters will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 16, with the semifinals two days later on Aug. 18. The finals are scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 20.