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Monday, March 10, 2008

ACC Champ Blackmon Still Mourns Worst Loss
Courtesy: NC State
Release: 03/09/2008

Blackmon won the 800-meter race at last week's ACC Indoor Championships.
View larger Courtesy: Jeff Camarati

Blackmon won the 800-meter race at last week's ACC Indoor Championships.
RALEIGH, N.C. – For Angelina Blackmon, running doesn't mean running away.
But the ACC-champion middle distance runner uses her sport to help wipe away the lingering loss of her older brother, Thomas Blackmon Jr., who died while the two were still in high school.
"That's something that you can never really get over," said the native of Augusta, Ga., and former state champion from Rock Hill, S.C. "But you also can't change what happened. I've used running as a way to get away from thinking about it."
Angelina was a freshman and Thomas was a sophomore at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, S.C., in the spring of 2001, and she followed her big brother everywhere.
"He was the person who made me a big tomboy," she says. "I always wanted to do what he was doing. Losing him was a big thing, something I had to deal with and something I am still dealing with."
Thomas Blackmon, then a 15-year-old sophomore, was an accomplished runner for Northwestern's acclaimed track team, with six younger siblings trailing not far behind. He had just won the 800-meter race at an all-county track meet and was preparing for a regional meet that was to be held at his high school.
After he and six teammates finished a mid-week training run, they hopped in a man-made lake next to Northwestern High to cool off. They had all swam across the lake, and his teammates were heading back when they noticed Thomas struggling in the water, about 12 feet from shore. By the time they made it back to him, he had gone under and drowned.
"We don't know, and probably won't ever really know, what happened, whether he caught a cramp or got sucked into some kind of a vortex," Angelina Blackmon said.
Angelina competed in the regional meet five days later and set four new school records. She continued competing, and became one of the most decorated distance runners in South Carolina history. A four-time all-state performer, she won seven individual state titles in cross country and track and helped her track team win its first state championship.
She opted to come to NC State because of its nationally prominent cross country program under Rollie Geiger and Laurie Henes. But location was also a factor.
"It was close to home, but not too close," she says. "Leaving home helped me cope a little more. I didn't have to think about it all the time."

Blackmon, now a senior, has been an accomplished runner for the Wolfpack for four years. She was a two-time All-ACC performer in cross country and a solid contributor in the 800-meters and the mile for the indoor and outdoor track teams.
Last week at the ACC Indoor Track Championships in Chapel Hill, Blackmon ran a 2:13.27 in the 800-meters to claim first career conference championship in any event. It's the first 800-meter title in the history of NC State women's track.
It was an important win for Blackmon, who says she has struggled to choose between being a long-distance cross country performer and a middle-distance track performer.
"It was a big win for me," Blackmon said. "I think of myself as a middle-distance runner, but it has been hard to decide what I am really good at. I have been better in the 800, way better than the mile, but I think coach thinks of me more as a miler.
"I have felt like I had more speed, but I never really got to show it. Now I have completed that task. I thought it was important to myself to prove it was something I could actually win."
Saturday, Blackmon hit the NCAA provisional qualifying mark in the mile for the third time with a time of 4:45.84 at the Alex Wilson Invitational at Notre Dame. That doesn't guarantee her a spot in next week's NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, which begins with preliminary events Friday in Fayetteville, Ark., but it puts her near the top of the provisional list.
Blackmon would like another opportunity to prove herself and win another championship. Even then, however, there is a sense of loss.
When she got home from the ACC Indoor meet last week, she wore a sad smile.
"I was thinking," Blackmon said. "My brother won't be able to see that I am a champion right now."
You may contact Tim Peeler at

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