Blake Irwin hasn't had to look far for motivation.
For two years now, Irwin and Aaron Dixon, his teammate on the Missouri track team, have been competing side-by-side in the 800-meter run, often exchanging victories.
"Luckily me and Aaron are best friends," Irwin said Wednesday by phone.
Both will be competing in this weekend’s USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
“Our PR’s (personal records) have always been really similar. We’re always within half of a second of each other,” Irwin said.
Irwin and Dixon say they hold no ill will against each other.
“We’re not looking to compete against each other. We’re just trying to do the best we can individually,” Irwin said. “If I win, I hope that he gets second or vice versa."
Even though there has to be a winner, Irwin said he likes to think they are competing together, not against each other. Part of this relationship, is by motivating one another as much off the track, as on it.
“The biggest part is not in races, but in the workouts,” Irwin, 20, said. “If I was by myself, I would not have gotten to where I am now. It’s a lot better than it is worse.”
Going into this weekend’s event, Dixon is ranked 23rd in the 800, 0.14 second’s ahead of the best time of Irwin, the 25th seed.
Nick Adcock will also be representing MU at this weekend's meet and is seeded 10th in the decathlon.
Along with the competitive edge Irwin’s gained from working alongside Dixon, he says he has grown as a runner by learning about himself.
“Last year I was kind of hit or miss. I was learning what kind of runner I am. Some guys like to sprint out and be ahead for the first part of the race, others like to wait in the back,” Irwin said.
This year, Irwin found out that he falls somewhere in the middle of those two camps.
“You have to be comfortable," he said. "This year I learned what it takes to run my best race every time.”
Irwin says he’s a little nervous for this weekend’s event, especially considering the competition he’ll be running against.
“Unless you’re an Olympian or competing professionally, you’re not going to find a better field,” Irwin said.
Irwin who is from Bettendorf, Iowa, began running track in middle school. When he was the No. 1 freshman in the state in high school, it dawned on Irwin that this was his best sport to pursue.
“It was the sport I have the chance to be the best at,” the MU junior said.
He has high hopes for the future, hoping to compete professionally some day.
“If I keep getting better and better, maybe I’ll go pro," he said. "You never know with injuries and what not – but maybe someday.”
Irwin’s first 800-meter race is at 5:05 p.m. on Thursday. If he qualifies his next race will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The championships will be updated live online.