On June 14th we celebrate Flag Day, the day that we adopted the (then) 13 stars and 13 alternating red and white stripes to represent the United States of America. With just over 50 days until marathoner and GLUKOS athlete Jared Ward represents the USA by walking in the opening ceremonies of Rio 2016, we take a look at Jared’s childhood to find out when his metaphorical “flag day” was. When did Jared Ward adopt running as his sport?
When you make the Olympic team, it is often assumed that you have had a life-long passion for your sport from a very young age. But Jared Ward didn’t start off with dreams of running professionally. He was born into what would become a soccer family. From playing soccer daily at recess to club team competitions, Jared grew up with dreams of becoming the next Pele´.
As the oldest of 5, there wasn’t much competition on the field except for with his first younger brother who later became quite good at wrestling - perhaps from practicing his moves on Jared during soccer practice. There also were no siblings to look up to with footsteps to follow. Jared was free to pave his own path, though he wasn’t without influence. He found his older cousins to be particularly cool, and they were runners in college, making running look pretty cool too.
Though soccer remained his first love and focus, he had an early passion for seeing how fast he could run. As early as the 3rd grade be began to track his annual mile time in PE, trying to best it year after year. His 7:20 mile time held fairly steady from 3rd through 5th grade, motivating him to train for his 6th grade attempt where he shaved his time down to 7:00.
Jared’s soccer career endured through middle school and into high school where he also was a member of the marching band on trumpet. (Jared still enjoys playing Jazz trumpet today.) As if he wasn’t busy enough, the cross country coach had taken notice of Jared so he worked in running between soccer and band practice. Sophomore year was pivotal in Jared’s running career, when getting cut from soccer prompted him to take running more seriously. Coach Buhrley took Jared in and helped him navigate the world of running, from nutrition to goal setting. Coach’s “track bible” quickly became Jared’s new favorite school book.
Though his Pele´ dreams never materialized, not making the soccer team turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was Coach Buhrley who first saw the potential in Jared to be a runner, and it was at the end of his sophomore year in high school when he qualified for state that Jared decided to focus on becoming one.
We’ll continue to explore Jared’s running career in Racing to Rio Part 2, when an eligibility snafu with the NCAA turns out to be another blessing in disguise.