Despite starting out as a soccer player, Benjamin Manuel, junior finance and management double major, found a passion and incredible talent for running.
Manuel’s father, a former collegiate runner in the Netherlands, introduced the sport to him in his youth, and Manuel has stuck with it ever since.
“In the first meet I went to, I got silver, and my brother got a bronze, and then we just stuck with track,” said Manuel.
Originally from Curacao, Manuel moved to the U.S. four years ago and attended Trinity Christian Academy in Miami, where he played soccer and ran track. Manuel holds the records for running events ranging from the 100 meter to the 3200 meter.
Manuel continues to set high goals and expectations for himself, as he strives to compete in the 2020 Olympic Games.
I got the chance to sit down with Manuel and learn a little more about him.
How has the transition been coming from a different country?
“The transition for me has been pretty great. I came here my senior year of high school, so I adapted to the American system in high school. So when I came to college, everything was already clear to me. I have been working on my English, and it’s been getting better because in Curacao, we don’t really speak English that much ― it’s mostly Dutch and our native language.”
How did you get into running cross country?
“Previously, I was just a sprinter, a 400- and 800-meter runner, but when I moved here, my coach told me that cross country would help me with my 800 meter and 1500 meter, so I just trusted him and went with it. And right now I’m one of the top five guys on the team. It’s been working out really well for me and the team.”
Do you have any runners in your family?
“My dad was a sprinter. He only did the 100 and 200 meters; he doesn’t really go above the 400. It was actually one day at the house where he took a couple of medals out of a box, and we asked him ‘Where did you get those medals?’ and he told us that he used to run in college in the Netherlands, so my brother and I thought if he could do it, then we could do it too. We had previously played soccer, so we just transitioned from soccer to track.”
Did you ever consider playing soccer at the collegiate level?
“I was actually looking for soccer and track and field, to see what [school] I could get the best offer out of. And I just got the best offers in track and field at NSU.”
What do you plan on doing with finance and management degrees after college?
“Right after I graduate, I plan on doing an internship, then working on my master’s, maybe here or in the Netherlands; I’m not sure yet. But after that, I would probably just go home, go back to Curacao, and join a corporation to get more experience, and then try to open up my own business.”
Do you want to continue running after college, or will you focus on working?
“I’m planning on it. It’s one of my goals; it should be part of everyone’s goals in running or sports. I’m planning on attending the Olympic Games. One of my goals is to make it there.”
Have you started any specific training for the Olympics?
“I mean, the training here is going pretty well, and I’ve seen my times dropping a lot, so if I keep doing the same thing that I’ve been doing for the past couple of years, then I think I’ll be able to make it at least for the 2020 Olympics.”
What motivates you the most to keep training like that?
“I think it’s just in my blood or my character. I’m just determined, and it’s a big goal to achieve, and that’s pretty much my motivation. I just want to do it for self-achievement.”
Do you have a coach that has influenced you?
“When I started, I had a coach back home for track and field, and he pretty much made us into robots. He was really motivating, and he had an Olympic plan for all of us since we were 10 years old. He started building us up, and so I would say that he has been the most influential. For right now, my assistant coach Austin Warner is also really motivating, and he’s pushing plans for me to go the Olympics.”
How would you describe yourself as an athlete?
“As an athlete, it varies for me from my normal character to my athletic character. Usually, I’m really quiet; on my team, you can see that I like to give leadership through action. I don’t really talk too much; I’m not really the speaking motivator type of guy. I can talk on a one-on-one basis with someone and motivate them a lot, but I’m not really the guy that talks to the whole team, but I’m working on that. I show a lot of determination to the other guys, and they can see that, and that drives them to become better.”