by Dylan Beck
Utah is known for its talented athletes, and several of these talented Utah residents competed at Rio 2016 for the Summer Olympics and the Paralympics. Some of these athletes who competed include rugby player Maka Unufe, rower Devery Karz, and beach volleyball player Jake Gibb. Paralympic competitors include Eagle Mountain resident David Blair, Syracuse High School student Hunter Woodhall, archer Michael Lukow, and Marybai Huking who played as the youngest member on the 2016 goal-ball team.
Jared Ward of Provo, Utah, says he never dreamed of competing in the Olympics, and didn’t begin his Olympic training until 2013. Despite this, he competed in the marathon, 20K, and 25K events at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics and placed sixth overall in the marathon event. Jared Ward knew he had a knack for distance running when he ran his first marathon in just over two hours, but he never imagined that talent would turn him into an Olympian.
Ward is currently on the United States Track and Field Team. He has had many career highlight runs dating back to 2013, where he placed 13th overall in the Chicago Marathon, and has only improved from there. He placed first three other times, and has taken second and third place in various races over the past couple years.
Ward started running seriously during his sophomore year of high school.
“Running wasn’t even my number one sport – soccer was,” Ward said. “But I’ve always liked running. I ran in grade school in the fun-runs, or in the mile for P.E., and now I have been running for 12 years.”
Ward went to Brigham Young University, where he was a tough competitor on the University’s track and field team.
“I didn’t have eligibility for cross country, but I did have it for track,” Ward said. “My coach, Coach Eyestone, who is the coach for BYU but also my personal coach, wanted me to run a marathon.”
Ward ran his first marathon – the Chicago Marathon – in 2013, and ran it in two hours and 16 minutes flat. This time qualified him for the Olympic Trials.
Although Ward always considered himself more of a track runner, he started focusing on marathons and quickly knew that was what he would be doing competitively. He was shocked when his marathon times qualified him for the 2016 Olympics – he had never imagined being able to compete in such a prestigious event.
“I had fun in running, but competing in the Olympics was never a possibility to me,” Ward said. “I mean I always dreamed about making a national story or something but I never thought I would make it this far – it just happened.”
Preparing for the Olympics wasn’t easy, so Ward’s track coach increased his mileage at a rigorous pace.
“When I first started running marathons, Coach Eyestone had me run 40 miles per week,” Ward said. “Then he had me move to 90-95 miles a week, and now I run 120 miles every week.”
Ward loves running, but more importantly, he is a husband to his wife and a father to his children. Preparing to compete at Rio 2016 was tricky while balancing his family and career as a statistics professor at Brigham Young University, but his hard work paid off.