Ben True has a dazzling athletic resume.
“He’s a winner,” said track and cross country coach Barry Harwick. “He’s very driven to be successful and I think that showed throughout his career. Not only does he succeed, but it’s in the final stages (of a race). That is what separates the ordinary athlete and the extraordinary athlete.”
True, who competed in cross country, cross-country skiing and track and field, will become the only athlete in Dartmouth’s history to qualify for induction in the Wearers of the Green for three sports.
Wearers of the Green began in 1984 as a banquet to honor Dartmouth’s most renowned athletes. To be inducted into the exclusive club, one has to be a member of an Olympic team or member of a national team, an All-America and a national champion, either as an individual or member as a team, just to name a few.
Ben True has achieved all of these and more during an incredible collegiate career that spanned 11 seasons.
“Ben never had any doubts about his ability,” said Harwick. “He had a quiet confidence in any situation; he was matter-of-fact about everything.”
In a 2004 interview with Bruce Wood of the Valley News, True spoke of his decision to attend Dartmouth and be able to compete in all three seasons.
“I was looking for a school where I would be able to compete in both cross country running and cross country skiing, which are my two passions,” he said. “During the last two years of high school I was trying to decide which sport I wanted to take further but I could not come to a conclusion about which I liked more.”
Despite the coursework involved with being an art history and architecture major and having to commit to three sports, True excelled in each one, becoming an All-America in all three.
“I saw becoming an All-America as merely a stepping stone for future aspirations,” said True. “I proved that I could compete at a high level, but I never doubted my own athletic abilities. I knew I could compete at that level regardless of earning such honors.”
In addition to receiving the most prominent individual awards for his accomplishments in his running career, True achieved an aspiration that places runners into the elite: a four-minute mile.
In 2007, True became the first Dartmouth athlete ever to accomplish the feat at the USA Track and Field New England Outdoor Championships. In his only chance to compete in the mile race that year, True took the lead and gave all he had toward achieving his goal in the last 400 meters. True won the event and, more importantly, reached his goal with a time that just broke the barrier: 3:59.99.
“He set a goal in 2007 to break a four-minute mile. To do it by the slimmest of margins shows how determined he is and that he can fight through obstacles to obtain his goals,” said Harwick.
That same year he became an All-America in track and field. True broke his own school record in the 1500 meters, taking eighth place at the NCAA Championships with a time of 3:40.17. He also holds Dartmouth records in the 800 meters (1:50.07) and the 5000 meters (14:14.85).
The All-America honor for his performance in track and field was his fifth All-America nod in his third sport. True earned All-America status in cross country running by finishing 32nd at the NCAA Division I Championship in 2005.
True had three top-10 finishes in cross country skiing, earning All-America honors for each. He finished fifth in the 10-kilometer classical technique of 2006. He followed that performance with two All-America performances in 2007, again in the classical race as well as the freestyle race. To add to an already extraordinary 2007 season, the men’s ski team won the national championship.
“2007 was a good year,” he said. “The highlight was the ski season where Dartmouth was able to win a national championship, but even that great honor, I was not able to fully appreciate it since I had to leave NCAAs before the final day of alpine racing was completed. Poor scheduling throughout the year did not yield the results that I had envisioned, but after recovering from that, I was able to have a great outdoor track season and was able to accomplish many goals I had set for myself, despite being plagued with sickness at the end of the year. The year let me know that although I was presented with less than ideal situations, I was still able to accomplish a lot and compete with the best athletes in three different sports.”
Following the 2007 season, True wanted to focus on skiing. He had never trained specifically for the sport since he was running throughout the year. True went to Idaho and took 10 months away from school to train for cross country skiing.
“I just wanted to get one year where I was able to focus on skiing in the summer and fall, see what that was like and go from there,” he told the Valley News in 2008.
His dedication towards skiing, however, came at a price.
He was in the best shape he had ever been in but at the same time he overtrained and became fatigued much easier. True rejoined the track team when he got back from his Idaho trip but was unable to compete at 100 percent because of the fatigue he experienced. True had hoped to run in the Olympic trials for the 1500 meters in the early summer of 2008 but instead, for the first time in his life, had to take time off for some much needed rest and relaxation.
“Words don’t do justice to the mental and physical battle that I fought day in and day out,” True said. “I was completely and utterly exhausted. The problem with overtraining is that you can't see it. You start performing poorly and you immediately think you need to train harder – which is exactly what you don’t want to do. The only way to recover from it is time off, but even then you had no idea when you were fully recovered. The hardest part was the fact that I wanted to do so much that year but my world came crashing down, proving I am indeed human.”
Now True turns to a new chapter in his life, being a professional runner. He still has yet to make a decision about competing for a running team, but both he and coach Harwick believe the best is yet to come.
“He never had a chance to focus primarily and solely on running,” said Harwick. “I don’t think he’ll reach his peak for another three or four years.”
True understands that he still has room to grow, especially now that he is a professional runner focusing on his sport. With time, True says he can put even more accomplishments on his athletic resume.
“This upcoming season will be very low key. I will have to get used to a new training environment, a new coach and the notion of living the life of a professional athlete, while at the same time staying healthy,” he said. “But my long-term goals are to qualify and compete for the National and Olympic teams.”
But all the awards and trophies are not what make Ben True who he is. True focuses on being the best competitor he can be, whichever sport it is.
“I never lost sight of what I wanted to do,” True explained. “I never became complacent with my results and was always striving to be the best at what I did. The ability to change mindsets from runner to skier, and back again while continuing to hold myself at such high standards and always seeking improvement, allowed me to compete in three sports. That has been my greatest accomplishment.”
The Wearers of the Green banquet will take place at the Westin Copley Place in Boston on May 16 at 6 p.m. Over 200 Dartmouth students, alumni and coaches — plus five honorary inductees — will be honored at the banquet, which is open to the public, with tickets available for $100 per seat online at alumni.dartmouth.edu/wearers or by phone at 603-646-2292.