Balancing Act: Scholar-Athlete of the Year John Bennett Is on the Fast Track to Success

John Bennett, pictured at the Cal Poly track in 2019, was named Big West Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Photo By: Photography805/ Nathan Nybakke

When he’s running on the Stenner Creek trail, training for future cross country and track meets, John Bennett will often have mechanical engineering lessons in mind.

“I think about mechanical engineering concepts quite frequently, but in more of a fun way,” he said. “For example, there is a truss in SLO we run under frequently, and I like to think, ‘If a force was applied in a certain location, which two force members would become zero force members?’”

Bennett’s commitment to both mechanical engineering and running helped him become a Big West Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year. He and fellow Mustang Tia Miric, a business major and beach volleyball player, were among 20 recipients — out of 3,000 athletes — from 10 universities to receive the honor.

Bennett, of Livermore, had previously won the 2019 Big West Freshman of the Year Award in cross country after helping the Mustangs win their fourth straight conference championship. The Scholar-Athlete honor recognizes Bennett’s ability to balance both academics and athletics.

“John has achieved academic and athletic excellence due to his focus, determination and work ethic,” said Mark Conover, director of the Mustang cross country and track & field teams.

While getting an A in class is gratifying, performing well in cross country and track gives Bennett even greater satisfaction, he said, because he can celebrate with teammates. Those teammates also push him to be better.

John Bennett, third from left, celebrates a Big West cross country championship with his teammates in 2019.

“The most memorable moment competing at Cal Poly would have to be the moments when a teammate is next to me and we push each other and refocus to run faster,” he said. “Those moments are called second winds.”

In 2019, Bennett finished 6th out of 203 in the 8K race at the UC Riverside Invitational, helping the Mustangs win the trophy. That same year, in track, Bennett scored in two events at the Big West Track & Field Championships, taking fifth place in the 10,000 meters and eighth in the 5,000-meter run.

When not competing, Bennett can often be seen training at his favorite spot — the Stenner Creek Trail in San Luis Obispo. While he’ll likely have mechanical engineering in his head on the trail, he avoids thinking about stressful components of his studies.

“Running is my time to relax and clear my head,” he said.

The pandemic caused all of the cross country and part of the track & field seasons to be cancelled last year. As a result, Bennett will continue to run cross country as a graduate student.

“This will give me three more years of being part of the Cal Poly cross country family,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bennett hopes his studies will eventually lead to his dream job — a career in design.

“It would be challenging, and it would both utilize and improve my technical skills and cover a variety of engineering topics,” he said.  “I do not want to stop learning after graduation.”

The Cal Poly College of Engineering understands there has been an enormous amount of turmoil and transition due to Coronavirus (COVID-19). As we continue offering support to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, we also continue providing critical updates as well as college highlights. Ours is a college full of creative and bright engineers and staff. For more information on COVID-19 visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For more information on how Cal Poly is responding to COVID-19, visit the Cal Poly Coronavirus website Coronavirus website.

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