White, Blankenship busy honing crafts

Taking advantage of time off from school seemed to be the last thing on the minds of Gahanna Lincoln High School graduates Jake Blankenship and Evan White this summer.

It would probably be interesting, too, to combine their travel miles.

Blankenship followed a trip to Eugene, Oregon, for the U.S. Olympic trials in men’s track and field by competing in his specialty, the pole vault, at various European meets throughout July.

White, meanwhile, traveled with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team to Asia and Cuba.

Both athletes first reached the spotlight as prep athletes and built on their experiences in college — Blankenship at the University of Tennessee and White at Kentucky.

“It’s definitely been an awesome experience, just being with the best players in the country and learning from their games,” White said. “Really the traveling has been a challenge because I haven’t traveled that much in the past, but we’ve played good baseball. It’s been exciting.”

White, who was the Division I state co-Player of the Year as a senior in 2014 after helping the Lions reach back-to-back state semifinals, took quickly to the college game.

As a freshman in 2015, he started 52 games, earned all-Southeastern Conference freshman honors and was the first baseman on the SEC all-defensive team. He also hit .318.

Then as a sophomore this spring, White was named third-team All-America by and second-team all-SEC after leading Kentucky in batting average (.376), doubles (15), triples (3), RBI (40), runs (44) and stolen bases (10).

He finished the season on a 16-game hitting streak, in addition to having a 21-game hitting streak earlier in the season.

White accepted an invitation and left for Los Angeles on June 26 to play for the collegiate national team, which features freshmen and sophomores. The team went 5-0 in California, including playing one game in Dodger Stadium and two games in Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

The collegiate national team then split four games against Chinese Taipei from July 5-7 in New Taipei City, Taiwan, and went 2-3 from July 12-17 in Japan.

After a short stay back in Los Angeles, White and the national team played five games in Cuba, losing two of their first three before beating Cuba on July 26 and 27.

Through 19 games, White was hitting .250 while splitting time between first base and outfield.

When White returns to college, he’ll be playing for a new coach after Gary Henderson stepped down after eight seasons.

The Wildcats, who went 32-25 overall and 15-15 in the SEC last season, hired Nick Mingione as coach June 13.

“Going into my junior year, obviously we’d like to make a run in the postseason, but it hasn’t been in the cards the last two years,” White said. “(The transition to college has been) pretty smooth for the most part, but there has been a learning curve. The older guys have done a good job acclimating me.

“You’re facing better arms and the pitching is very good in the SEC. It’s definitely been a good learning experience for me on and off the field. You’re not going to hit .500 in the SEC, so you have to learn to deal with failure.”

Blankenship has two semesters of school remaining but is done competing athletically at the collegiate level.

After winning Division I state outdoor titles in the pole vault in 2011 and 2012 as well as the state indoor championship in 2012 for Gahanna, Blankenship put together a decorated college career.

He took fourth in the NCAA indoor championships as a freshman in 2013 and fourth in the NCAA outdoor meet as a sophomore. He then took second indoor and sixth outdoor as a junior.

Although he battled a pulled groin during the 2016 indoor season, Blankenship captured the NCAA outdoor championship June 8 in Oregon when he cleared 18 feet, 4 1/2 inches.

He also won SEC titles in 2015 and 2016 outdoors.

On July 4, Blankenship cleared 18-4 1/2 but settled for seventh place in the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, as the top three finishers qualified for the U.S. team.

Last summer, Blankenship made the U.S. team that competed in Beijing at the International Association of Athletics World Championships.

“(Competing in the Olympic Trials) was a pretty cool experience,” Blankenship said. “It’s just another track meet in how you have to go about it. You know (you make the Olympic team) with a top-three spot. I didn’t have my best day vaulting. This year was kind of a roller-coaster ride with injuries. I jumped pretty consistently at the same height. I did well at the NCAA meet by getting the height that I needed to win, but it wasn’t my best jumping.”

Blankenship didn’t take much time off after the Olympic Trials, traveling to Europe to compete in four meets from July 10-24. He made stops in Belgium, Sweden, France and Ireland.

His next big goal is making the U.S. team next summer for the World Outdoor Championships.

“It’s been busy,” Blankenship said. “I’m going to take a break and resume when I go back to school in the fall. You’re always thinking abo





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