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Modest cross country runner from DuBourg High School keeps perspective

George Blanco says attending DuBourg High School is a way to act with faith

Portrait of George Blanco on the track where he practices at Bishop DuBourg High School in St. Louis.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
A standout athlete and student at Bishop DuBourg High School, George Blanco is modest about his successes. He doesn’t even mention them.

He’s a big supporter, however, of his comparatively low-key sports — cross country and track — and explained the nuances of the competition and the importance of confidence. “A lot of people think it’s just running, but in reality it’s a lot more of a mental sport than you think,” Blanco said. “You can get a lot of things in your head, like thinking about what other people in the meet can do, whether you can compete with them or if you’re good enough to run these times. You just have to block that all out and believe in yourself.”

In cross country this fall, Blanco finished first in the district meet and two other meets. He finished second at two meets and third in another.

Blanco has been running cross country and track since the fifth grade. He followed in his older brother Vicente’s footsteps in the sports at DuBourg.

“I’ve been running since I was 10 years old, so it’s been a natural progression, and I’m just keeping it going,” he said matter-of-factly.

Blanco maintains a balanced rhythm, avoiding overexertion at the start of a race. He treads lightly and keeps his hands from getting too tense or loose. “Especially for me, my shoulders get really high when I start struggling because my body gets tense. So I have to focus on staying relaxed,” he said.

Team prayers at the start of a meet help him relax, he said. “We say, ‘God is going to help us get through this, no matter what the outcome, and we’re going to try our best.’”

In cross country, the training varies. Sometimes it’s tackling hills, other days is running eight miles or getting on the track to work on speed for the finish at the end of a meet. DuBourg has one small, co-ed team that practices together but competes separately.

He runs the mile, the 4 x 400 relay and sometimes the half mile in track. It’s a closer environment to interact with others and watch multiple events, which Blanco enjoys.

The junior at DuBourg also is involved in the pro-life club and honors program, tutoring and as a student ambassador in which he shows prospective students around the school and helps them determine if DuBourg is the right fit for them. “Last year I had a lot of them who felt uncomfortable at first. Watching them open up during the day was a really good experience,” he said.

He’ll go on the March for Life trip to Washington, D.C. in January and said he’s pleased to be part of the movement to protect life.

DuBourg has something for everyone, he said. “It’s a very warm environment. And, it’s a fit no matter what your educational needs are. They have the honors program, but if you need help it’s available in a lot of places.”

A Catholic school allows him to “really express my opinion” on faith-related matters, he said. The Our Lady of Sorrows parishioner appreciates prayer each morning and monthly Masses at school.

DuBourg athletic director Steve Bettlach cited the Blanco family values, their support of their children and support for DuBourg. Their son George is “one of our top academic kids, with a great sense of humor and very loose,” Bettlach said. “That’s how he leads. His teammates are relaxed around him. He’s probably the one who has the most on the line every meet, and he’s just a happy guy who tells all the jokes beforehand.”

On the run

George Blanco took first place in his Class 3 district cross country meet in Spanish Lake Park Nov. 2. He finished in 16:41.69.

This season, Blanco was first in the AAA championship, the Fleet Feet Invitational at Arnold City Park and the Affton Cross Country Invitational at Wilmore Park.

At the Forest Park Festival Gold Division, Blanco finished second in a crowded field of runners from 26 schools. He also was second at the Hancock Invitational and was third in the Ed White Invitational.

Last season, Blanco placed fifth in the Forest Park Cross Country Festival Varsity White Division, fourth in the Affton Invitational and third at the Hancock Invitational before suffering a season-ending foot injury. In track last spring, he specialized in the 1,600, qualifying for the state meet. He also was part of the 1,600 relay.

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