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Arkansas native Blakelee Winn reflects on U.S. U-20 heptathlon title

Winn capped her freshman year at Pitt State by winning the gold medal at the USATF under-20 championships in Eugene, Oregon in late June.

PEA RIDGE, Ark. — For Pea Ridge alum Blakelee Winn, winning isn’t just in her name.

It’s what she does.

“She’s is tough and she’s competitive,” said Kyle Rutledge, Winn’s track and field coach at Pitt State. “When you watch her compete, that’s something we really have to tap into, because she is a phenomenal competitor.”

At first, track and field was just one of many sports that kept Winn busy at Pea Ridge.

“I really didn’t practice in high school,” Winn said. “I would actually have softball and track practice on the same day. I’d go to track for an hour and then I’d leave and go to softball practice.”

Winn also played basketball for the Lady Blackhawks, and it was that multi-sport background that appealed to Pitt State coach Kyle Rutledge when he recruited her.

“That really intrigued me on this girl could be pretty special if she just devoted her time to track and field,” Rutledge said.

Winn was already special, winning multiple state titles at Pea Ridge, including the state heptathlon her senior year.

And she continued winning in her freshman year at Pitt State, earning All-American honors in the heptathlon and 4x100 relay.

But her biggest win of the year came last week in Eugene at U.S. U-20 championships. She entered the final event, the 800 meters, needing to win by 1.2 seconds to capture the national title.

“Past two of my races, I’ve basically lost because of the 800, so I was like ‘not again,’” Winn said.

Using that as motivation, Winn finished ahead of second place by more than the 1.2 seconds she needed, and thus becoming the under-20 national champion.

Her emotions after the win?

“I was kind of just dead from the 800,” Winn said with a laugh. “I was just really happy and I was really just blessed to be part of the whole experience.”

After a long 10 months of track and field, Coach Rutledge wanted the lead up to Eugene to be a stress-free process.

“The last month, we just wanted to enjoy track and field again,” Rutledge said. ““I told her multiple times, ‘I don’t care how you do.’… anytime you get to that level, you want them to enjoy the experience and to soak it all in.”

Coach got to soak in the experience with Blakelee, as she punctuated her freshman year on the highest of notes.

“Just a great experience for her and a great accomplishment, so I was just elated for her and excited for her to accomplish that,” Rutledge said. “That’s a big deal.”

A pretty big deal, with a pretty big medal to show for.

Winn’s accomplishments, are something her hometown of Pea Ridge has been proud of.

“So cool how many people reach out to you and tell you good job or good luck,” Winn said. “I think that’s just my favorite part.”

And her coach thinks that her ceiling in the sport is in her hands.

“That’s what’s fun about it: it’s just wherever she wants to take it,” Rutledge said. “I’m just happy to coach her. She’s fun to be around and she makes people around her better.”

Reminding us that what Blakelee does is literally in her name: Winn.

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