Sept. 26, 2012
UCF Athletics Social Media Directory
By Jenna Marina
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - UCF sophomore Shelby Blaes knows the value of hard work - growing up on a farm will teach that to you. If it wasn't for her upbringing, there's a chance the distance runner wouldn't be competing for the Knights today.
Blaes grew up in Scrambletown, which is located in the Ocala National Forest. It's the kind of place that has one gas station and a church and not much else.
"There weren't really many friends out there because I had to drive 45 minutes into town for school. A lot of people wouldn't visit," Blaes said. "My brother and I hung out a lot and climbed trees."
Idle time was scarce anyway. When she wasn't attending Vanguard High School, Blaes was helping her family work on their farm, which housed chickens, cows, a turkey, pigs, rabbits and even a worm farm for compost.
"You'd wake up really early because you had to get up and feed all the animals before you got ready for school," Blaes said. "After school we'd work out in the garden and have carrots and stuff. Check on the animals, get eggs. For dinner we'd have to pick stuff out of the garden and bring it in. It was a cool experience because you learned the value of normal things, like how to actually grow carrots - it takes a while and if you do it wrong, you're not going to have carrots to eat."
Although most of the hours in her days were accounted for, she always made time for running.
She ran her first 5K when she was 5 years old alongside her father in the Reindeer Run in Ocala. Because the course is the same as the parade route, a sizeable crowd cheered on the participants. Blaes stole the show as one of the smallest runners.
"I didn't get an award. I remember seeing other people get awards and I was so upset," Blaes said with a grin.
Awards came later as a county and district champion in both track and cross country at Vanguard. She signed with UCF as a member of the 2011 recruiting class in part because her older brother Bill attended the school and in part because the campus gave her a feeling that no other program evoked from her.
But her collegiate debut was delayed for months as she missed the entire cross country season. A lingering injury from her senior year of high school turned into a stress fracture in her femoral neck in her right hip.
At first, no one could determine what was plaguing Blaes. She continually took time off to rest but tried to push through by continuing her training.
When the pain reached a point that she could no longer endure, she sought out a second opinion.
"They told me if I kept running, I'd be there next week going in for surgery, and I could have lost my hip because it could have gone into necrosis (bone death)," Blaes said.
Running always served as her stress reliever, and without it, she soon became withdrawn.
"It was beyond frustrating," Blaes said. "I couldn't relieve any stress so I was mad all the time. I'd just be in my room and didn't want to do anything. I kind of stayed to myself, which is a bad idea. My parents would try to talk to me, and I'd just say you don't understand. Sometimes I'd try to go out and run when they weren't home, and then they'd find out and I'd get in trouble, so my brother had to watch me."
She rehabbed and learned to lean on her teammates and coaches. She said she knows now that she couldn't have gone through the ordeal without them.
"I know without them or Coach (Paul) Brown, I probably would have stopped running," Blaes said. "Coach Brown kept telling me, `I have a plan for you. Just be patient.' I trusted him and everything worked out."
She was cleared to return during the indoor track season and ran in her first race at the Jimmy Carnes Invitational in January. She was nervous that she had forgotten how to race and second-guessed herself on when to surge or make a move.
But after she finished the mile, she felt the happiest she had been in a long time. She was admittedly rusty, but she was happy just knowing she could regain that competitive mindset.
Blaes is now one of the leaders on the cross country team and helped the Knights to their best placing at the Mountain Dew Invitational in five years by finishing as one of UCF's top five competitors.
Blaes isn't taking anything for granted. The lesson she learned through her experience taught her to have a newfound respect for running, and combined with her rigorous work ethic, there is no finish line in her future.
"The experience definitely helped because it changes your mindset. I remembered why I actually like to run. A lot of people lose that when they try to run in high school or college. I just like the feeling of running and I train because I like to, not because I have to," Blaes said. "If I hit a wall, I think, `I've been through this. I can push a little more.' I've been through so much. I deserve to be where I am."