Former ACS teammates face off in college, both finish in top 10

September 5, 2021

Tristian Merchant

They won a state title together in high school, but now Anchorage’s Tristian Merchant and Blake Bennett are on different sides in college.

They faced off for the first time at the George Kyte Classic in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Both former ACS standouts landed in the top 10, but Merchant earned bragging rights as the top Alaskan.

Merchant – a freshman at Northern Arizona University – finished the men’s 4.5-mile race seventh out of 96 finishers in 23:37.4 while Blake – a junior at Grand Canyon University – crossed tenth in 23:47.6.

They’ve come a long way since leading the Lions to the 2017 ASAA D2 state championship team title.

This was Merchant’s first college race. He ran unattached and placed sixth among the powerhouse Lumberjacks, who claimed six of the top seven finishers.

Blake Bennett

He wrapped up his high school cross-country career with three straight D2 state titles. He was a three-time Gatorade Alaska Runner of the Year.

Merchant owns what is believed to be the fastest 5-K time for an Alaska high school runner in 14:41.

Bennett has posted five top-10 finishes in 13 college cross country races.

In 2020, he placed 19th at the WAC Cross Country Championships and broke the Grand Canyon school record in the men’s 3,000-meter run in 8:29.47.