Mark Gregory certainly hasn’t forgotten his college athletic roots.
A 6-foot-5 role player who could shoot the three for the then-University of Southern Colorado basketball team in the late 1980s, Gregory has stayed connected to the university in various ways.
He’s been on the athletic department’s golf tournament committee for the past half-dozen years, joined the alumni board of directors a year ago and advertises his State Farm insurance agency in Colorado State University-Pueblo publications. He and his wife, Tanya, also work out at the college’s recreation center, of which they are members, since it’s so close to their University Park home.
Saturday, Gregory will lace on his running shoes and join hundreds of other participants in the 10th annual Spank Blasing 5K/10K Run & Walk that will begin at 10 a.m. just outside the university’s Neta & Eddie DeRose ThunderBowl. And while he isn’t a high-mileage, run-every-day fanatic that the sport seems to nurture, Gregory still retains some competitive spirit from his basketball days at Pueblo South High School and CSU-Pueblo.
“I hope to improve my time and also place higher in my age division,” said Gregory, 46, who placed fourth in his age bracket last year with a very respectable 24:56 5K time and, if possible, would like to break 24 minutes this year. Given his 23:49 time in the 2010 Blasing, that’s a feasible goal.
Besides running a few miles three or four times a week, Gregory has kept in good shape the past two decades as a high school and college basketball referee and by playing recreation basketball, although he admits that, at his age, there seemingly are more bad days now than good days on the hardwood floor.
Gregory got into running just a few years ago. After a friend and fellow State Farm employee died of a heart attack in his 30s, Gregory joined some colleagues in running the Cherry Creek Sneak in Denver in his honor.
He has been running ever since, for a while being serious enough to run the Pikes Peak Incline 11 weekends in a row with training buddy Mike Roumph.
He got into the insurance business by chance 21 years ago, too. Having graduated from USC with a business management degree and recreation minor, he was considering possible options after a potential European semi-pro hoops tryout fizzled. Now-retired State Farm agent John Salas put him in touch with a claims office manager and Gregory’s career was launched. He served as a claims adjuster for seven years and a claims manager for three more before opening a new agency in Pueblo West.
“I always envisioned myself having my own business somewhere,” Gregory said, admitting that it wasn’t easy the first few years since he started without any clients.
On Saturday, he’ll be joining a participant audience that will range from the hard core to the casual. All will be part of what has become a major fundraiser for CSU-Pueblo student athlete scholarships. The Blasing started as a walk to raise money for athletic scholarships. Last year, it raised more than $19,000 with 500 participants (498 finished).
The entry fee includes a short-sleeved tech shirt in either men’s or women’s cut, a goodie bag, breakfast burrito and liquid refreshments.
The races travels around the CSU-Pueblo campus and the Belmont neighborhood and ends with a final lap around the ThunderBowl.
Participants can pre-register at the CSU-Pueblo athletic office in Massari Arena until Friday. Entry fee is $25 for adults and $15 for 17-under. Race-day registration is $30. New this year is a pre-race packet pickup on Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the athletic office.
The Martini Shot band will again provide post-race live music near the finish line.
The event is conducted in memory of James “Spank” Blasing, coach and athletic administrator at Pueblo Junior College, Southern Colorado State College and the University of Southern Colorado from 1956 to 1984.
Run for Rio
Some big things are brewing down in the Greenhorn Valley in preparation for the 15th annual Run for Rio 5K run/walk that will be held on June 2 at Rye High School. A movement is underway to get participation from all of the recipients (or at least one of their family members) of the annual Rio Don Diego Memorial Scholarship that the race funds. Race organizers are also hoping that the community and high school student body will make plans now to get involved to help make it a huge event.
Registration forms will be available soon, with the early registration fee $20 ($17 for members of the Southern Colorado Runners). The entry fee will include a cool dry-tech shirt boasting a cool, new logo. It is hoped that the local Lions Club will make a pancake breakfast available after the race.
Information on area races is available online at www.socorunners.org, then going to the “races” tab and clicking on “calendar.”