Joplin, Mo. – Former Missouri Southern distance runner Jake Benton will look to further his running career by traveling to Kenya to train to qualify for the US Marathon Trials to be held in Los Angeles in 2016.
Benton is in his last semester of classes at Missouri Southern and currently carries a 4.00 GPA in biology and pre-med and plans to enroll in medical school after college. His dream of becoming a doctor, however, will take a short backseat to his other dream of competing in the Olympics.
Benton, a four-year distance runner for the Lions out of Wentzville, Mo., helped continue the tradition of dominance for the MSSU program during his career. A cross country All-MIAA and All-Region selection his final two seasons, Benton helped the Lions to two appearances in the NCAA XC Championships, finishing 8th in 2012 and 19th in 2013. During his tenure, the team finished no lower than third at the MIAA XC meet.
He ran his first half-marathon in Springfield recently and placed first, 15 minutes in front of the second-place runner. That time qualified him for the American Development (sub-elite) corral in the Chicago Marathon to take place this fall. Having done that, Benton has decided to try to qualify for the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles, California. That event will take place in February of 2016. The top three from that race will qualify for the 2016 US Olympic Team to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
With that goal in mind, Benton has decided to take his training international and will be moving to Iten, Kenya in January 2015 to train for a year with some of the world's most elite distance runners. He will be staying in a running compound called Run Kenya.
Benton will first compete in the Chicago half marathon this September and then the full marathon in October. He will start training in Kenya in January. Part of his training will include a half marathon in Milan, Italy in March of 2015, as well as the Berlin Marathon in November of 2015. Leading up to his move to Kenya, Benton will graduate this December from Missouri Southern and will train with the MSSU cross country team this fall.
When he's not training in Kenya, Benton plans to keep up on his education by taking online, continuing education courses in biology, while also volunteering at a local hospital.
Benton has developed various ways people can follow his training overseas, from a website entailing every detail, as well as a support page on Facebook for people to not only keep up with him, but also as a way to help donate to his cause. Links to each page can be found at the top of this story. If he qualifies for Los Angeles in 2016, he will be the second former MSSU runner to do so as former All-American Kimi (Shank) Reed has already qualified for the trials herself.