Name: Rai Benjamin
School: Mount Vernon
Sport: Indoor Track and Field
Athletic accomplishment: Benjamin, a sprinter, won the 400-meter dash at the Indoor New Balance Nationals March 15 in a time of 46.61 seconds. During the events trials, he set a Section 1 record with a time of 46.59 seconds. Both are the fastest indoor 400 times in the country this season. Also at the indoor nationals, Benjamin finished third in the 200-meter run in a time of 21.09 seconds, a New York state record. This indoor track season, he broke the indoor state records in both 200 (21.09 seconds) and 300 (33.17 seconds) meter runs, the latter also the second fastest time in U.S. history. He also owns a state outdoor title in the 400 meter hurdles and three outdoor track sectional records: 200 meters (20.88), 400m intermediate hurdles (51.86), and 800 medley relay (1:30.05). Benjamin will attend UCLA, where he was recruited for 400-meter hurdles, but said he anticipates running the 400 open as well.
Academic accomplishment: Benjamin holds a 81.45 unweighted GPA and scored a 1180 on the SAT exam. He is an advocate for tutoring or academic support for student-athletes, and he has spoken about the topic in front of the Mount Vernon city Board of Education, at community events and at local churches. He plans on studying political science at UCLA.
Getting to know
The Journal News: What did it mean to become the 400 meter national champion at the Indoor New Balance Nationals earlier this month?
Rai Benjamin: It came as a surprise because there was a disqualification in the race. I wasn’t really sure how the results were going to be be published until about 10 minutes after the race was over.
TJN: Of all the section and state records you hold, which one is most meaningful to you?
RB: I’d say the state records in the 200 and 300 mean a lot to me because I broke them during my senior year before I left for college.
TJN: What is the toughest event you run, indoor or outdoor?
RB: Probably the 400 because it comes down to technique and how well you execute your race plan. Mentally, you’ve really got to be tough. Outdoor I would say is tougher, but they’re each tough in their own ways.
TJN: What would it mean to you to see increased academic support toward student-athletes?
RB: It’s important because not everyone knows the schedule of athletes. In track, we travel a lot on the road and sometimes we miss days and some teachers aren’t too forgiving. It would be great if students and teachers had some sort of understanding.
TJN: What is your goal heading into the spring track season?
RB: Just keep improving every week.
The Con Edison Athlete of the Week recognizes students in Westchester and Putnam schools who excel athletically. Academic achievements, leadership, citizenship, and school and community activities are also factors. The winner is selected each week by a panel of athletic directors and coaches who review ballots submitted by each athlete’s athletic director or coach.