Bluske's Wait is Over
AMES, Iowa - Iowa State's Samantha Bluske had been waiting, sometimes impatiently, for the 2012 cross country season to begin. Now that it has started with her in a cardinal and gold uniform, her heart is in the right place. Bluske was forced to sit out the 2011-2012 cross country and track and field seasons after transferring from Illinois State, where she ran as a freshman and a sophomore.
"I had to red shirt all of last year, it was extremely hard," Bluske said. "The hardest part was I was I knew I was healthy and was able to compete."
Bluske got her Cyclone feet wet Sept. 15 with a third-place finish in the Cyclone Classic in Ames. The Iowa Stater placed 10th Saturday in a field of 211 runners as the Cyclones' third finisher at the Griak meet in Falcon Heights, Minn. Her performance, she covered the 5,000-meter course in 21:36, helped Iowa State win the team title for the second straight season.
"Samantha ran a good race," said Iowa State head coach Corey Ihmels. "She will be a key to our success this season. I think she is enjoying racing again after the layoff from competition. I know it was tough for her to have to watch the races last season."
In retrospect, her time off may look like something beneficial in the long run.
"I know it's going to be a blessing in disguise because I got an entire year of really solid consistent training in that I know is going to benefit me this year and next year," Bluske said.
It hasn't been long since Bluske was a high schooler in search of a sport.
"I was really bad at volleyball so it was my only other option," Bluske said. " I just ran because I liked it and I was half-way decent at it. I never took it seriously until I came to college."
Whether she was serious or not, her prep results affirmed her talent. The native of Chaseburg, Wis. won the 2007 state Division III high school cross country race for Pardeeville High School. She was a state runner-up in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs.
Her collegiate choice came down to Illinois State and Iowa State.
"I made a last minute decision to go at Illinois State," Bluske said.
As a Redbird, she demonstrated her potential. She placed 15th in the Missouri Valley Conference cross country meet as a 2009 freshman. At the 2010 MVC outdoor track meet, she placed third in the 10,000 meters. But Bluske wasn't healthy. She had developed a stress fracture.
"I probably had it the beginning of April but it was too late to use my red shirt so I just finished out the season," Bluske said. "Then, right after conference I took time off until the end of July and started running again. I missed a lot of training that summer."
Bluske tried to make the best of it in cross country, and placed 15th in the 2010 Missouri Valley Conference meet as Illinois State's third finisher overall.
"Sophomore year cross country wasn't the best because I was coming off the injury and was thrown into racing again," Bluske said. "Right before Christmas break, I almost decided to transfer for the next semester. I was going back and forth. My parents encouraged me to finish out the school year (at Illinois State) and I did."
Indoors, Bluske was sixth in the 3,000-meters at the Missouri Valley Conference indoor meet and fourth in the 5,000-meter run. Outdoors, she finished fifth in the Drake Relays 5,000-meter run (16:47.07) and ran on the sixth-place Illinois State distance medley. She was third in the 10,000 meters and fourth in the 5,000-meter run at the Missouri Valley outdoor championships. Her season included a 34:25.55 effort at the Mt. Sac Relays.
"At the end of my sophomore year I kind of realized how serious I wanted to take running," Bluske said. "My heart wasn't in it. It's really hard to explain to people the feelings. I had made multiple visits (to Iowa State) my senior year of high school. I think I was here three times."
Her mind made up, Bluske packed her bags for Ames.
"In July (2010) I handed in all my official paper work and I got cleared the day before camp last year," Bluske said. "I had to redshirt all of last year."
Bluske's No. 1 reason for coming to Iowa State? Cyclone head coach Corey Ihmels.
"I love his training," Bluske said. "I think my body and what I need works really well with his program. I can run a lot of miles. I'm not necessarily the fastest person out there when it comes to the mile, but I can run for a long time and my body holds to the high mileage that this program is really based on."
Bluske likes cross country and training with her teammates.
"I'm still learning a lot because I've never had great experiences yet and I never had women to look up too," Bluske said. "That's completely changed here, now I have Megan (Nelson), Betsy (Saina) and Dani (Stack) to look up to on a regular basis. It makes running so much easier to have people to learn from and just go with."
Bluske has high hopes for Iowa State cross country this fall.
"It's going to be crazy," Bluske said. "I really think we can do great things if everyone stays healthy and just keeps doing the little things on a daily basis. I really think we are going to surprise a lot of people."
Ranked fifth nationally, a performance that would surprise anyone would mean major achievement. Bluske is happy to be a part of that effort.