Lee Williams' Darleen Bland ready to prove herself on bigger stage in Phoenix
KINGMAN – Darleen Bland is no stranger to tough competition after making a pair of trips to the Division III State Championship during her junior and senior years for the Lee Williams High School track team.
But everyone has doubts in life and Bland wasn’t sure she could compete at the next level. There is no questioning that now as Bland will continue her career at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix.
“I wasn’t positive that I was good enough to be college material,” Bland said. “I had colleges look at me, but not actually contact me or try to recruit me or anything. But coach (Joan) Abraham emailed them personally and they responded and looked at my stats. And they actually came to my meets and watched me run. Without coach Abraham, I wouldn’t have been recruited to a track team.”
And Abraham would help Bland again in a heartbeat because she knows the former Lady Vols runner has lots of potential to prove herself on a bigger stage.
“I wanted to make sure she had the best shot she could possibly get,” Abraham said. “So I wasn’t going to not take her down there (to Phoenix). I told my husband, ‘Hey, I’m going to take Darleen down.’ He responded, “OK, good. Have fun.’ And it was. We had a nice time and we got to talk about all sorts of stuff. We set her sights on some things and help her think about the future.”
And Bland’s future is indeed bright as she even received more offers from universities, but wanted to keep her commitment to Paradise Valley.
“There is one coach from a university in Phoenix that called me and wants me to run on her cross country and track team,” Bland said. “And the same with another coach in Iowa, he wanted me to do the same thing. But I was already kind of committed to PVCC and I don’t really want to run cross country in college. It’s a lot of work.”
Even without the added work of also running cross country, Bland is in for a busy offseason in preparation for her first season with the Pumas.
“There are going to be runners who are way faster and way better,” Bland said. “They’re going to push you and encourage you. People who are slightly better than you will definitely accelerate in that level.”
But Abraham made sure to let Bland know one important fact about taking this big step.
“It’s all about the education,” Abraham said. “The athletics are important, but they are kind of a stepping stone – that’s how you get there. And this is her way.”
Bland is well aware of that fact, along with knowing she is in for an adjustment to a much bigger city.
“It’ll be a dramatic change, but that’s what I’m looking forward to,” Bland said. “Just explore what’s out there and all the other opportunities in a bigger city. That’s why I’m really excited to move to Phoenix, also.”
And she will get a chance to shine as one of the Pumas’ top runners.
“I’m actually being recruited as their fastest 400 runner,” Bland said. “I looked at the other girls’ stats and they run slightly slower time than me. But I think all of us practicing will definitely help push each other.”