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Blankenship joins Mead on U.S. Olympic team

Ben Blankenship running in a race

With his third-place finish in Oregon, Ben Blankenship ousted 2012 Olympic silver medalist Leonel Manzano for the final qualifying spot. 

Two University of Minnesota track and field alums are heading to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as former All-American Ben Blankenship punched his ticket on Sunday to join fellow All-American great Hassan Mead on the U.S. Olympic Team. 

A native of Stillwater, Minn., Blankenship took third in the 1,500-meter final in Eugene, Ore., clocking a 3:36.18. The Gophers alum edged 2012 Olympic silver medalist Leonel Manzano by less than half a second for the final qualifying spot. 

"That's the kind of determination you know you're going to get from Ben Blankenship," Minnesota Director of Men's Track & Field and Cross Country Steve Plasencia, himself a two-time Olympian, said. "He ran the race he wanted to, and he certainly fought hard to earn a spot on the Olympic team." 

A four-time All-American and three-time All-Big Ten honoree for the Gophers, Blankenship won three individual conference crowns while helping the program to five total Big Ten titles. He still holds the school record for the indoor mile (3:57.87), the indoor 3,000 meters (7:52.52) and the outdoor 1,500 meters (3:39.77). Blankenship anchored the U.S. distance medley relay squad to a new world record (9:15.50) at the 2015 IAAF/BTC World Relays and set a new course record (3:55.8) to win the 2016 Medtronic TC One Mile earlier this year.

Mead, meanwhile, took second in the 5,000 meters on July 9 with a time of 13:35.70. Both Blankenship and Mead will make their Olympic debut next month in Brazil.

"To have Hassan and Ben both qualify for the Olympics is really something special. It's a testament to both of them as well as their current coaches and support systems," Plasencia said. "They were great competitors when they were with us, and they just keep getting better and better."

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities