Mount Vernon Olympic track and field star inspires athletes at his alma mater
A Mount Vernon native is going for gold in the men's 400-meter hurdles at the Olympics.
Long before Rai Benjamin became an international track and field star, he got his start at Mount Vernon High School.
Mount Vernon athletes say they look up to the star.
"It makes me proud to be a Mount Vernoninte, obviously and as a hurdler as well, says Mount Vernon Class of 2021's Antwon Messado. "He is really an inspiration."
"I would love to be on that stage someday and achieve some of his great accomplishments," says Nicardo Blake, of Mount Vernon Class of 2021.
Benjamin is now going for the gold in the men's 400 hurdle in the Olympics.
Nicardo Blake built on Rai's legacy before he graduated in 2019.
"He represents hope for this town. He is the definition of making other opportunities for the upcoming generations," Blake says.
Rai's high school body of work is something to admire and aspire to beat.
"I chased at a couple of his records," Blake says.
The 24-year-old Benjamin is also a three-time state champion who still holds four state records.
"I was gunning for his 400-hurdle record but that's insane," Messado says.
Most people who knew him then say he was always posed for greatness.
"Everybody knew Rai was special, he would come out of nowhere and pull off some remarkable wins," says Mount Vernon High School track and field head coach Amado Lambert.
Before becoming Mount Vernon High's current track and field head coach, Lambert once coached against Rai. "He was our biggest assignment," he recalls.
Lambert says Benjamin's legacy gives his athletes hope.
"He has the thing that every kid would want, he is living the dream," Lambert says.
Benjamin's fans believe he will take the gold in the finals on Monday night, but first, he has to qualify in the semifinals Sunday.