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Sarasota Athlete of the Week: Ben Skaggs

The Riverview High junior is having a breakout cross-country season.

Riverview High junior Ben Skaggs.
Riverview High junior Ben Skaggs.
Photo by Ryan Kohn
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Ben Skaggs is a junior runner on the Riverview High boys cross-country and track and field teams. Skaggs finished third (16:15.90) at the 2023 Tri-County Championships, held Oct. 21 at North Port High, and won (16:55.40) the 2023 Riverdale Invitational, held Oct. 7 in Fort Myers. 

When did you start running?

Well, I moved to Florida from Bowling Green, Kentucky, in eighth grade. I was a soccer player, but the middle school I transferred to (Sarasota Middle) did not have a soccer program. So I thought, "What's a different sport I can get into?" I was brand new and wanted to do something. So I started in track and field and went from there. 

How long did it take you to learn the sport?

My first meet, I got second place in the mile and won the 400-meter race. I thought, "Wow, I'm actually decent at this running thing." I had never done it before except for soccer conditioning. But I was always the soccer kid who could just run and run. So I found it fun. 

Do you prefer cross-country or track and field?

I like the training part of cross-country more. It's a smaller group of people. You can get to know everyone. The meets don't last long because it is just the one race. And I like the longer training sessions. When I move into track and field season I do miss doing all the extra mileage. But with track, I like being able to do so many different events and run with different people. It's good to have both. 

What is your favorite memory?

Honestly, any time I can pace people who are maybe a level below where I am and help them get faster, that's where I get a lot of enjoyment. Our No. 3 runner (sophomore Killian Knowlton), he has his PR down to 17:37 now, but I paced him to break 20 minutes over the winter last year. That was a great moment. I love being able to do that for my teammates. 

What are your goals for the stretch run of the season?

I'm working on tapering into the close of the season. I want to individually qualify for the state meet, that would be ideal. I'm also 28 seconds away from the school record right now. If I could get that, that would be cool. But the first smaller goal is qualifying (for regionals) at the district meet and hopefully breaking 16 minutes for the first time. 

What is your favorite food?

I don't know if I have one favorite, but I love southern-style food, like barbecue and mashed potatoes and crawfish. All the good stuff my family used to make when I still lived up there (in Kentucky). 

What is your favorite TV show?

I watch a lot of football and other sports. I don't have any TV shows I stick to. I like "Impractical Jokers," that's a pretty funny one. 

What are your hobbies?

I like to work out. That's a lot of what I do outside of training. I do a lot of bodyweight stuff. We have this little park in our neighborhood with pull-up bars and other things that I use. I also like climbing stuff; I have been bouldering quite a few times. 

What is your favorite school subject?

I love science. I'm in biology now and I have like a 107 in that class. (Laughs.) 

Which superpower would you pick?

Telekinesis. I would love to move stuff with my mind. It seems fun. 

What is the best advice you have received?

When you start feeling pain, you're not even halfway there. You have to keep pushing. It's the only way. Your body is going to tell you to stop, but you can't. You have to break that mental barrier and find your physical barrier. 

Finish this sentence: "Ben Skaggs is … "

Fun. I like to try new things. I like interacting with people. I think I get along with everyone. 



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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