CHS track runner meets life’s challenges to compete

by Andrew Alonzo | [email protected]

On May 27, Benjamin Schulz, a junior from Claremont High School, took a four-hour trip with his parents to Buchanan High School to compete in the CIF State Championships for the men’s 400 meters track and field.

Schulz, who only has one left arm, competed in the Ambulatory Para division alongside five other runners, smashing the 400-meter course in a blistering time of 1:01.68 to win the CIF title.

It’s been mostly a bumpy track season for Schulz, who competes in mid-distance sprints for the CHS track team. In the fall, he swaps medium sprints for long distance running.

However, his historic season may not even have been written after suffering an injury just before the start of the track season.

“I was playing football with my friends. It was just a catch-up game and I rolled my ankle and it broke part of my ankle,” he said. “And so the first two races, two or three races, I couldn’t race.”

Fortunately, Schulz recovered quickly and was back on the track before the end of the Palomares League season.

“I ran two or three races, got to the league final and just blew myself up,” he said. “It was like the fastest race I’ve ever run and that’s what qualified me for the 400 [meter] state race.

In the Palomares League Finals, Schulz competed in the 400 meters at the junior varsity level against two-armed peers. Despite having some advantage, Schulz finished with a time of 1:00.99, according to athletic.net. Based on his solid time, Chris Ramirez, CHS head coach for cross country and assistant distance runners coach for track and field, entered Schulz in the CIF State 400-meter ambulatory race. Schulz would be one of six riders to be admitted, and as they say, the rest is history.

At the state, he beat all six runners and finished the race about seven seconds ahead of San Francisco International High School runner-up Michael Reyes, who finished with a time of 1:08.40 according to CIF records.

When asked if Schulz deserved the title, coach Ramirez replied, “Of course.”

“Well, from when I started coaching him when he was a freshman, he always had a lot of speed,” coach Ramirez said. “Even though he’s usually a distance runner or middle-distance track runner, I knew he would run the 400 meters really well because he has all that natural leg speed.”

Recalling the day he became state champion, Schulz said it all happened so quickly. He didn’t have time to be nervous because after the CIF race officials took out the six ambulatory runners, they only had a minute to warm up.

“When they detonated that gun, I was unprepared,” he said. “I hadn’t stretched or anything and just left [the starting line] and it went pretty well.”

During the race, he kept telling himself not to slow down. Once he crossed the finish line, he said, “I felt like I was on top of the world.” Probably a mix of euphoria and pain, he remembers it being mostly pain.

“My legs were so tired. I finished, I bent over and I was like, ‘Oh my God, my legs are so tired,’” he said. Exhausted, he said he remembered feeling dizzy at the awards ceremony minutes later.

Schulz and coach Ramirez hope to build on the junior’s already solid foundation next season and defend his CIF title. Whether Schulz is back in the ambulatory race or among his two-armed peers, he knows he can go faster than a minute on the flat next time after improving his 100 and 200 meter times.

But before any athletic work, the junior is currently training with his teammates in preparation for cross-country in the fall.

According to coach Ramirez, Schulz brings a lot to the teams in which he plays in addition to his ability to run. Schulz is a hard worker and sets a great example for his teammates on how to be a dedicated athlete.

“For Ben, I’m thrilled to see him go as far as he can in the race,” said coach Ramirez. “It’s really fun, inspiring and awesome…to watch him race.”

“He’s got one of the biggest results on the team. If you see a race where Ben finishes, he’s probably going to edge five to 10 kids in the last 150 to 250 yards,” Ramirez said. great finish, he has a big heart, and yes, I expect very big things from him.”

“I feel like I’m part of the [CHS] crew. We are all part of the team, but as everyone stands out in their own way and I feel like that is part of what makes me an individual, as a member of the team,” said added Schulz, referring to his missing member.

He doesn’t let much get in the way of his way of living life. He’s just a normal teenager with a few tweaks – like the special button on his steering wheel to help him turn and signal while he’s driving.

“All my friends don’t even notice it anymore. I barely notice it. It’s like when we do something physical like a push-up competition or something, I notice it and I’m like, wait a second, I can’t do this,” he said with a laugh.

Although Schulz is the only outpatient CHS runner and the only one of his track and field teammates to compete at the state level this year, he said his victory on May 27 meant the world to him.

He also said the win was not just for himself or the school, but for those next in line to become ambulatory runners at CHS.

“Honestly, I think everyone is so happy that I was able to compete and win,” he said. “I don’t know, it was so amazing…that I could be the one who was there for all of them.”

Schulz thanked his parents, Joseph Schulz and Jennifer Armstrong for always being his biggest supporting cast.

As for what’s next for Schulz, he said, with senior year and summer on the horizon, he needs to start preparing for college admissions — and getting a job. Although he has yet to choose a college, Princeton University is his number one school because he believes he can succeed academically and athletically there.

But whether life goes as planned or deviates a bit, he knows one thing for sure: he intends to keep running.