Corey Ballentine excelling on football field, track for Ichabods

Corey Ballentine might have been more established as a sprinter than as a football player in high school, but the Shawnee Heights product knew which sport he was most passionate about.

 

“I’ve been doing track for a long time, since I was in like fourth grade. Not that it’s a bad sport, but, plain and simple, it’s hard,” the Washburn junior cornerback said. “The races I was doing were hard. I did the work, but I was just thinking out of high school, if I‘m going to do something that I’m going to put all the time and effort into and something that I think is fun, it’s going to be football.”

Ballentine, who was a three-time All-City pick in track and part of three straight 1,600-meter relay state championship teams, had no shortage of college track offers, leading to a debate with his family about which sport to pursue.

“Washburn was one of the last schools to offer me (for football), I think, and when I got it I was pretty stuck on that,” Ballentine said. “Me and my parents debated about this days in and days out, but (football) was what I wanted to do.”

Not only did the decision pay off as a football player, but, ironically, it also led Ballentine back to the track.

When Washburn announced it was rebooting the track and field program starting in the 2016-17 season, Ballentine was approached about joining the team.

“Not that I necessarily missed it, but I know I’m good at running so I was sure that it was something that I wanted to do,” Ballentine said. “When they finally got the track team in for the first year, I was glad to help out.”

Shortly after finishing a solid sophomore season for the football team, Ballentine turned his focus to the outdoor track season in the spring.

He was satisfied with the results, which included a fourth-place finish in the 100-meter dash (10.64) and a seventh-place finish in the 200 (21.50) in the MIAA outdoor championships.

“To be away from the sport for three years and run the times that I ran, I was pretty excited,” he said. “I knew I had gotten stronger, but I didn’t think I had a gotten a whole lot faster, and the times proved that I did get faster. I’m just going to try to improve on that and keep getting stronger.”

Ballentine said the pros outweigh the cons in participating in both sports.

“It keeps me in good condition,” he said. “When I come back from track and do the summer workouts, I’m finishing them easy, not breathing hard at all. Where it doesn’t benefit me is when I go from football to track season, I lose some of my form, because football is more lateral movement, track is more straight-line movement, so my form isn’t as good and I just got to practice and work on it every day. I shake out all the wrinkles.

“I’ve been doing both sports for a long time, so I kind of know how it goes. I just kind of work it out. It’s not too bad.”

Ballentine is one of a few Ichabods who take part in track and field and football.

“I love it,” Washburn coach Craig Schurig said. “I think that it provides them competition in the spring. We miss them some in spring ball and we limit a lot of what they do, and that’s the only downside. But to be honest, with those kids, if they’re competing, they gain confidence, they’re training and it just makes them a better athlete. I’m all for it.”

This season brought a slight change for Ballentine, with the 6-foot, 195-pounder moving to cornerback after earning honorable mention All-MIAA honors at safety last year.

“I still have certain packages where I go in at safety, but I mostly play corner, and I kind of like it a little bit better because I think I use more of my athletic abilities,” Ballentine said. “I’m kind of fast, so I would rather be out there (at corner), but I don’t mind either one.”

Schurig said Ballentine has handled the transition well.

“He’s a physical-style player,” Schurig said. “He played the down safety last year and was a good tackler and came off the edge really well. He’s just a big, strong athlete and really starting to get the hang of corner. Coach (LaRon) Moore, has really done a good job with him. He can use his physical presence on the wide receivers.”

Ballentine has also emerged as a weapon on special teams for the 2-1 Ichabods, ranking seventh in the nation in kickoff return yardage, averaging 35.5 yards per attempt.

“Sometimes I’ll run and I’ll be going too fast to see the gaps that I need to run through, so I’m trying to be patient and wait for my blockers and wait for the hole to open,” he said. “Then when I see it, I got to get through it as fast as I can. That’s been helping me a lot. After that, it’s just relying on my eyes and instincts and whatever I think is the best move I need to make to get more yards and then being secure with the ball and not fumbling.”

The Ichabods (2-1) will play host to Nebraska-Kearney (1-2) at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Yager Stadium.

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