Junior runner praised for overcoming odds

Junior runner Adam Benefield goes for a jog during practice at McFarland Park. Benefield, who arrived at practice 30 minutes early, is the team captain.

The undisputed leader for the UNA cross-country team is Adam Benefield, a three-year letterman junior from Haleyville.

Since his junior year of high school, Benefield knew he wanted to run for UNA. However, Benefield said he was not recruited by many schools.

“I had to contact him (Coach Scott Tremble),” Benefield said. “My times weren’t as fast as a lot of other recruits, but he gave me a chance. That is part of why I am so loyal to UNA.”

That chance appears to be paying off as Benefield represented the team at UNA’s Media Day Aug. 10. Benefield said he has embraced the leadership role and continues to encourage his teammates.

“I like to text the guys individually after a workout to be encouraging,” he said. “I like to let them know that no matter what level you started out at, you can have a lot of success at the college level.”

UNA coach Scott Trimble said Benefield has put in the work it takes to be a successful runner and has improved tremendously since his freshman year.

“He’s made himself into a great runner,” Trimble said. “From January 1 to the first of August, he put in over 3,000 miles. In seven months, that is unbelievable.”

Trimble said one trait he looks for from his runners is persistence. He said while some have occasional motivation, Benefield is disciplined every day, and the results show on the track.

“He’s the most consistent runner we’ve had over the past two years,” he said. “He’ll do everything you ask him and go above and beyond.”

Sophomore Justin Watson, Benefield’s teammate and roommate, consistently raves about the characteristics Adam possesses.

“Adam is our captain,” Watson said. “I was one of the guys that really built up my mileage in the spring, and Adam was there to guide me through it. He has been there and done that. Without him, I don’t know if I would have made it.”

Watson said rooming with Benefield and being around him on a daily basis gives him an opportunity to feed off Benefield’s “never say quit” mantra.

“The dude just won’t give up,” Watson said. “You tell him he can’t do something and he’ll do it anyway. There are some odd defying things within Adam Benefield.”

Benefield enjoys the bond the team has outside of running. He said the team uses every opportunity possible to get together.

“We’re a pretty tight family,” he said. “We’re always hanging out together on weekends. We’re like brothers.”

Benefield is a nursing major and is currently waiting to see if he is accepted in the program. Benefield plans to work in the emergency room after graduation.

“I would really like to stay around here (in Florence),” Benefield said. “My dream job would probably be working in the emergency room at Helen Keller. That’s what I’m leaning toward right now, but that all can change.”

Benefield and the Lions will travel to Clinton, Mississippi, to run in the Watson Ford Invitational Oct. 9.