By Eric PilgrimJune 13, 2018
Malik Blunt is fast.
So fast, according to his coach, the track runner could very well be competing at the 2018 AAU Junior Olympic Games in Des Moines, Iowa, July 25 -- Aug. 4.
Malik certainly hopes so, too.
To get there, however, he'll have to get through the June 23 state qualifier in the top 10 and then regionals June 29-30 in the top six.
Malik's dad, Master Sgt. Michael Blunt of U.S. Army Reserve Aviation Command at Fort Knox, said if personal integrity, determination and hard work are any indicators, Malik will make it.
"He's already naturally fast, and he is seeing exactly how good he can be," said Blunt. "At first, he didn't realize how good he was. Now that he's winning more and his talent is getting better each year, it's making him be more dedicated to his craft."
At 14, Malik attended Scott Middle School in the 8th grade last year. After school hours, he participated in a local track club called BeastMode -- joining in March 2016. According to the club's founder and head coach, Brandon Butler, the Garrison Command Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment first sergeant, BeastMode is designed to take talented track youth and help them to excel.
Track is Malik's latest venture in sports. Before this year, he pursued baseball for four years, football for a year, and basketball. Interest in the other sports faded.
"All the other sports I played, I was getting bored with, so I thought I would try out for track," Malik said.
Track had something the other sports didn't.
"It's an individual sport," he said. "You don't have to depend on others."
Malik comes from a family of athletes.
Three of the four Blunt children have shown an interest in track. Malik's oldest brother played football and ran track through his senior year at Fort Knox High School and is now a cadet at Western Kentucky University. Malik's seven-year-old sister will start track in BeastMode this year. And Blunt and his wife of 15 years also pursued track in school. He said she ran two years in junior high.
"I did track and field for two years when I was in high school," Blunt said. "It's in our DNA, I guess."
Blunt said neither of them reached the level that Malik has.
"I didn't have the coaching but most importantly, I didn't have the heart and dedication that he has," said Blunt. "He has definitely exceeded my expectations in track and field."
Years ago, Blunt chose a different path in sports for himself, as a competitive bodybuilder. He is also a certified sports nutritionist and certified personal trainer.
"I use my background to help put [Malik] above the next level," Blunt said.
Malik devotes time to the track with BeastMode three days a week, training throughout the summer to improve his times. On Sunday, he works with his father on strength training in their home gym. Blunt said Malik is determined to get faster and stronger.
"He's been an inspiration to me, seeing the hard work he puts in at practice and while he's at home," Blunt said. "Being an athlete, you have to take care of your body with nutrition and getting the proper rest. Things like that definitely separate him from his peers.
"Not every kid at that age takes it serious," continued Blunt. "I do admire that about him. Anything I tell him to do to better himself, he takes it in stride and runs with it."
Malik said his father's example and continued encouragement are his greatest motivators.
"He was faster than me at one point. When I was younger he used to beat me at races, but I always wanted to be faster than him," said Malik. "Well, I'm faster than him now -- way faster. I beat him by a lot. And he's the best about it."
Malik continues to improve with every track meet. In 2017, he earned 2nd place at the USA Track & Field Kentucky Association Junior Olympic Championships in the 100-meter race at 12.42. He was 13. He has since shaved off nearly a second, taking first in the 100-meter race at the Kentucky Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Middle School Championships May 26 with a time of 11.79. He also took first in the 200-meter with 23.34, a personal best. That makes him the fastest runner in Kentucky in his age bracket, and there are no signs of him stopping.
Every race, every win continues to motivate him toward his ultimate goal, he said: someday winning gold at the Olympics.
"I'm going to continue to grow strong; never give up," said Malik.
Blunt said if anybody can reach the Olympics, Malik can.
"They say if your goals don't scare you," said Blunt, "they're not big enough."