Track and Field

Montana State Distance Runner Ben Perrin Sees Every Race as a Blessing

Perrin has set schools records for Montana State University as a sophomore and continues to make strides towards national-caliber marks

By 406mtsports.com
Ben Perrin competes in a meet for Montana State University. | Courtesy of Montana State Athletics

Ben Perrin didn’t even realize what had just happened.

Perrin — a sophomore distance runner for Montana State — was just looking to race at the Husky Classic. He’d already broken the MSU indoor 5,000-meter record by nearly 16 seconds (an altitude-adjusted 13 minutes, 43.10 seconds) a couple months before at the Bobcat Preview on Dec. 3.

“It was just awesome to go down there and race against (outside) competition because we’d been running a lot of meets here and it (started) to almost feel like time trials for our team a little bit,” Perrin said.

So when he crossed the line in 13:39.56 on Feb. 12 on Washington’s campus in Seattle, it didn’t register with Perrin that he’d broken his own record. In fact, fellow Bobcat Duncan Hamilton had to inform him it was a new top time.

“And then I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I forgot about that,’” Perrin said.

That’s essentially Perrin’s mindset when it comes to track and field: he just wants to race. His next chance will be at the Big Sky Indoor Track and Field Championships, which run Thursday through Saturday at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.

But that’s not how he always felt. Growing up, Perrin remembers watching his older brothers, Zach and Jake, go out for long runs, hoping he’d never have to do that.

“And just thinking about that now, it’s kind of funny how that ended up changing so much,” Perrin said. “I just started doing it in middle school and once I got to high school, my older brother (Jake) was a senior at the time and he was kind of a good inspiration for me to start getting into it.

“I definitely started getting more serious (about running) around that time. I was just doing it for fun and then it progressed from there.”

Flathead’s Ben Perrin. Best of Preps on Nov. 29, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

While at Kalispell Flathead High, Perrin won state titles in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs on the track, as well as a cross-country state title. He was also named the 2018-19 Gatorade Montana Cross-Country Runner of the Year.

With that success, Perrin wanted to keep running in college. And after meeting Montana State head coach Lyle Weese, Perrin decided on MSU because he liked the idea of staying in-state and representing Montana.

But Perrin — who redshirted his first cross country season — still found a bit of a learning curve.

“It definitely felt like I was struggling for awhile there to just stay up (with the distance group) in workouts and stuff,” Perrin said.

“But it definitely helped me because everyone else was so good on the team immediately, so I think my fitness just immediately went up because I was working out with those guys every day.”

He kept working at it, earning a fourth-place finish in the 5,000 meters (14:19.19) and a ninth-place finish in the 3,000 meters (8:25.16) at the 2020 Big Sky Indoor Track and Field Championships. What didn’t help, though, was having the 2020 outdoor track and field and cross-country seasons canceled because of COVID-19.

Perrin said he lost a lot of motivation to train during that time, especially with all the uncertainty of when races would resume.

“But I think it helped, though, because now every time I get to race it seems like a blessing,” Perrin said. “Especially now racing every weekend, it’s been awesome.”

And when he was finally able to race again, Perrin’s confidence came back too. After a promising cross-country season capped with a 24th-place finish at the Big Sky meet, Perrin built on the momentum heading into the 2021-22 indoor track and field season.

This indoor season, Perrin has set new personal bests in the mile (4:01.35), the 3,000 meters (8:01.31) and the 5,000 meters. His time from the Husky Classic in the 5,000 positions him 34th in the nation.

“He has definitely hit a new level this indoor season,” Weese said. “Ben has always been a great racer where on race day, he always seems locked in and he goes out there and runs to the best of his ability. I think that he’s become more and more consistent in practice and really running some great workouts.”

Along with his own personal work ethic, Perrin also attributes his success to two people — Weese and Hamilton. Perrin said he can’t speak highly enough of Weese, who is also the head coach of the cross country team.

“I definitely believe he’s one of the best coaches in the NCAA,” Perrin said. “From our cross season, everyone did really well. And then going into indoor, everyone was really excited to get into it.”

Meanwhile, Hamilton has helped push Perrin in workouts and races in both cross-country and track and field. Hamilton notably placed 14th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2021 Olympic Trials, and is currently nationally ranked 28th in the indoor mile (3:56.89) and 10th in the 3,000 meters (7:45.40).

“I don’t think I would be where I’m at today without Duncan,” Perrin said. “Just him going to the (Olympic) Trials last year, I think that kind of showed our team that it’s possible to be at that level. And it’s somebody we train with every day. He knows running really well and just knows how to handle himself at races. He does all the little things, too, really well.”

Flathead graduate Ben Perrin runs in the 2021 Big Sky Conference Championships. | Courtesy of Montana State Athletics

While at the Husky Classic, Hamilton broke his own school record in the 3,000 while Perrin did the same in the 5,000.

Weese said those kind of results have translated from the confidence built in daily training by both Perrin and Hamilton.

“People tend to get a lot of confidence from being able to be consistent combined with being able to do some things in practice and workouts that they haven’t done before,” Weese said. “I think really focusing on those things — being consistent and kind of reaching a level in practice that you’ve never been before — really helps them go out on race day and make it that they’re ready for some really good racing.”

Weese added that Perrin has a bright future ahead in both track and field and cross-country in his remaining time at MSU. He said the next step is for Perrin to compete at the national level in the 3,000 and 5,000 indoors, and potentially the 5,000 and 10,000 outdoors. The same goes for cross-country.

Perrin, who prefers the 5,000 meters, said he wants to make nationals — both in track and in cross-country. It would also be a bonus, he said, to join Hamilton in the exclusive sub-four minute mile club soon.

But most of all, he’s just looking forward to his next race.

“Like I was saying before, with COVID, not having a race in sight was tough for me,” Perrin said. “I definitely need stuff to focus my mind on. Just having the cross season last year, races like every other weekend — or like now, really every weekend — is just an extra motivator. It’s been pretty awesome just racing, really.”

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