(Ryan Bender anchors the Thunder to a State Title in the 4x400-photo by John Hays)
Name: Ryan Bender
School: Desert Vista High School
Ryan Bender graduates as an integral part of the Desert Vista State Championship squad. Early on in his Senior season, Ryan took victories in the 100m and 200m at the Aztec Invitational. At the Sun Angel Classic, he won the 100 and 200 with a Division 1 leading time of 21.56 for the 200-meter dash. In May, Ryan ended his high school career at the D1 State Champs, with a 3rd place finish in the 200m and as an anchor for the State Champion 4x400 Relay squad.
What was your most memorable race?
My freshman year, we won the 4x1 at state with two freshmen and two sophomores when we weren't the favorite. I have colorful memories of that. Only one of us had a driver's license!
Who would you consider your biggest competition over your four years?
Probably Maj Williams, but in a good way. We were always asking each other about our times and such at meets throughout the years and we were both 200/400 guys for most of high school. It was competitive, but in a good way. I wish him well.
What was your greatest accomplishment?
Helping my friends in 2016 get a state championship before they graduated. I'm really close with a lot of them and it was cool to see them get a ring after they had worked so hard and looked after me. Contributing to that was important to me. I miss them.
If you could do it all over again what would you change about your running career in high school?
I probably would have tried harder to not get 2nd place, by 2 points, 2 years in a row, to the same school at state.
What were the most difficult obstacles you had to overcome?
I feel like when you're young in high school the hardest thing is convincing yourself that you're good enough to be there running with seniors. Probably that mental hump.
What will you miss the most?
During Monday practices, the guys and I'd always talk about our weekends while we warmed up, that was always a good time. I'll miss running at Sun Angel too, I always did pretty well, plus my friends would always go to that meet and they'd take me out to eat after or we'd go to a party.
What advice would you give to younger athletes?
Don't be afraid to train with, or race people who are better than you. Iron sharpens iron!
What influence has your coach had with respect to your performance and overall life goals?
One thing my coach has drilled into my head is the concept of, "Take what I'm saying, not how I'm saying it." I think about that when I ask people for critiques, or just want to get better at something.
What are your college plans?
I'm going to the University of Pennsylvania, where I'll continue running. I'll major in Political Science.
Who do you have to thank for your success at Desert Vista?
Probably Steve, our trainer. He has a pretty thankless job, and he's a really good guy. His sense of humor is also dry as hell and I think that's hilarious.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
More advice: If you're going to run in sunglasses, you better not lose.