Sport: Sprinting (400-meter; 200-meter; 400-meter hurdles)
Born: St. Elizabeth, Jamaica
Colleges: Blinn Junior College; Alabama A&M University
Olympics: 1992; 1996 (Bronze)
Personal best: 400 meters in 45.68 seconds
Organization: Mentoring Through Sports Professionals (MTSP)
Book: “An Olympian’s Hidden Secrets”
Lived: Nanuet, New York; Orlando, Florida
Lives: Ashburn, Virginia
Key teachings: Discipline; Perseverance; Character; Teamwork; Compassion
Speaks from: Experience
MASE Training, Sterling, Va. – So you get to this new running class thing your parents signed you up for. Lots of kids are there and they’re all talking with each other until this one guy comes in, then they all shut up and pay attention to him. This guy’s kinda tall and he talks with this accent, but mostly he looks a lot like your PE teacher. So how come everyone’s listening so close to him?
Then the man slips on a glistening medallion of precious Olympic bronze.
That gets your attention. So you open up to everything the man says, watch everything he does. All the other kids are too. Because they should.
Dennis Blake knows he attracts that attention. A world-class athlete since his schoolboy days in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, he attracted interest from U.S. colleges, running at a level elite enough to attract attention from Olympic officials from his homeland.
Throughout the 1990s and into this millennium, Blake was counted among the few fastest humans in the world. He was a member of Jamaica’s 4×400-meter sprint team for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. He won a silver medal in the 1993 Central American & Caribbean Championships, and another silver in the 1995 Pan American Games. He was in Atlanta in 1996 for his second round of Olympics, wearing the green-yellow-and-black as he raced in qualifying heats which eventually landed him and his teammates a priceless bronze medal.
Though he uses his hardware for effect, humility is part of his game.
“You wouldn’t find me going around telling people that I’m an Olympian. I don’t do that,” Blake stated in his authentic Jamaican accent, one he refreshes with regular visits to the island. “I leave that for my wife.”
Blake is a personable man, easy to smile and comfortable around a joke. His air is unassuming as he speaks softly and chooses words carefully. He’s penned a book, An Olympian’s Hidden Secrets, due for publication this summer.
“I have a passion to give back. Not only to Jamaica but to wherever I am,” he said.
Since 2012, Blake has annually conducted a camp in his childhood hometown to benefit less-advantaged kids. His Mentoring Through Sports Professionals (MTSP) program began when the principal of his old elementary school reached out to ask Blake to give a summer camp. Kids responded so positively, the camp has become a summertime mainstay in St. Elizabeth.
“Because of the challenges I faced as a child, I had to set my own goals and come up with strategic ways for achieving them,” Blake said. “I believe that my personal experiences have taught me compassion. Every area has disenfranchised kids, and I know how they might be feeling, and I know how to take them to different places in their minds. I can show them how I was able to pull myself out of that and how they can too.”
This is a man who thinks deeply about things, and the things he thinks about are conveyed through a strong philanthropic bent. Blake is a man who wants to make life better for whomever he’s around.
The Track To Loudoun
Being the fastest quarter-miler they had at St. Elizabeth Technical High School, Blake found room in the American collegiate ranks at Blinn Junior College in Texas. He parlayed that into a spot at Alabama A&M University, earning a business degree and enough acclaim on the track circuit that he was enshrined into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 2006.
Most recently, Blake coached track at a high school outside New York City, but he and his wife Barbara wanted a return to the lifestyle pace he’d grown accustomed to in his college days. Barbara had friends in Northern Virginia, prompting a visit; a few visits later, the Blakes were Loudouners.
“The camaraderie, the friendship I saw around here, the atmosphere was just right,” said Blake, a devoutly spiritual man who’s already made connections at Capital Community Church.
Now Blake calls Ashburn home, and he’s training his altruistic vision on what he can do for Loudoun too. For kids from 7 to 17 (or thereabouts), Blake is designing a series of instructional athletic camps wherein his personal athletic challenges and successes are held up as examples of what the dedicated can achieve.
“I’ve put in the work, and kids can see that,” he said. “That’s something that’s not only required for sports but for the long-term in life. That’s what our athletes here in Loudoun County are going to learn.
Camp With an Olympian
In close coordination with MASE Training of Sterling, operated by Loudoun resident and former Washington Redskins linebacker, Eddie Mason, Blake will conduct a series of camps starting in the summer of 2016, with the potential to run continuously.
The plan for our MASE Training 96 Bronze Speed Academy, will be held at both Riverside High and Belmont Ridge Middle School this upcoming summer, and will host a week-long 2-hour training sessions Monday through Friday beginning on June 20th. An emphasis will be placed on assessing, educating, developing and training every student athlete (Session 1: Ages 8-12 / Session 2: Ages 13-19 ) in attendance to become their best in sports and in life. To register see link below. Link: https://webtrac.loudoun.gov/wbwsc/webtrac.wsc/wbsearch.html?xxmod=AR&xxkeyword=masetrainingsummer2016
Coach Mason and I will be teamed up to run these programs here in Loudoun County,” he said. “In these camps we’re not solely focused on the fitness. We’re teaching from the inside-out. We use sports as a backdrop to teach about discipline, perseverance, character, sportsmanship, so these student-athletes can learn about themselves.” Our end goal is to transform lives, from June into August. Attending male and female student-athletes must have a sincere desire to become better, and the drive to actually make it happen. Just as for his Jamaican camps, local kids enduring life challenges are particularly welcome in Blake’s curriculum.
The Olympic bronze medalist hinted that campers may be in for a treat when he and Mason race for charity, squaring off in a straight-ahead duel of sprinting heat.
“Not just yet,” Blake laughed. “But when I get in shape…!”
What Blake knows is running – how to train the body and mind to run faster than those trying to run faster than you. What Blake knows is the meaning of competition, and how sports can be used to help a kid feel better about, and perform better in, life.
“I believe that learning from the best will bring out the fabric and fiber of an athlete,” said Blake, showing of a poetic side. “When you have something to aspire to, you’ll do whatever necessary to get there.”
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
Written by Jason S Rufner
Exclusively for Viva Loudoun Media Communications