Jared Ward competes at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 on Aug. 21, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
When Jared Ward crossed the finish line third at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Marathon in Los Angeles to punch his ticket to the Olympic Games Rio 2016, his coach of the last decade, Ed Eyestone, pointed to his ring finger and told Ward, “now you’re going to get one of those Olympic rings.”
Making an Olympic team was a longtime dream of Ward’s, and it was something he had admired about Eyestone, his Brigham Young cross-country and track coach who competed at the 1988 and 1992 Games, ever since he first noticed Eyestone’s Olympic ring on his recruiting visit.
“I think that’s when it hit me that my Olympic experience was real in that respect that I had arrived at an accomplishment that I had really idolized in my coach,” Ward said.
Four years later, Ward, who finished sixth in the marathon in Rio, is aiming to qualify for his second Olympic team during the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Marathon this Saturday in Atlanta.
The BYU class of 2015 alum and current statistics adjunct professor at the Provo, Utah, campus and volunteer assistant coach thrived as a collegiate athlete, and he credits that experience in preparing him for his road racing career.
“It provides a stepping-stone that a lot of us need,” Ward said. “If I had come out of high school and gone straight into road racing, I just wouldn’t have been ready for it. I really do think that league, if you will, provides a really integrate, middle, stepping-stone for most of us athletes.”
During his time as a Cougar, the four-time All-American competed in the NCAA cross-country championships four consecutive years, the NCAA track and field outdoor championships his sophomore through senior years and in the NCAA track and field indoor championships his junior and senior year.
Despite a competition pool of over 700 runners vying for six spots – three male and three female – at Olympic trials, Ward’s confidence is soaring, and he knows his experience in Rio will help him this time around.
“I went into Rio feeling just grateful to be there, and I left feeling like I belonged there," Ward said.
Ward is one of many veterans and rookies looking to qualify for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Team. Here are 11 other student-athlete marathon runners to watch:
Galen Rupp, University of Oregon: The three-time Olympian and two-time Olympic medalist was a six-time All-American for the Ducks.
Scott Fauble, University of Portland: Fauble narrowly missed out on a trip to Rio in 2016, finishing fourth in the 10,000-meters at Olympic trials.
Leonard Korir, Iona College: A 2016 Olympian, Korir is a two-time NCAA champion, winning an indoor 5,000-meter title and outdoor 10,000-meter title in 2011 for Iona.
Parker Stinson, University of Oregon: The nine-time All-American for the Ducks was part of three NCAA championship winning teams.
Emily Sisson, Providence College: In 2013, Sisson helped the Friars win their first NCAA cross-country championship since 1995. Sisson was the best Friars finisher in seventh place.
Molly Huddle, University of Notre Dame: The two-time Olympian set an All-American record with nine honors at Notre Dame.
Jordan Hasay, University of Oregon: Hasay was an 18-time All-American at Oregon where she won two individual NCAA titles.
Desiree Linden, Arizona State: The two-time Olympian won the 2018 Boston Marathon, making her the first U.S. woman to win since 1985.
Emma Bates, Boise State: As a Bronco, the 12-time All-American was a 2014 NCAA national champion in the 10,000-meter.
Kellyn Johnson, Wichita State: In 2015, with a time of 2 hours, 28 minutes, 40 seconds, Johnson ran the sixth fastest time by an American woman in their marathon debut.
Sara Hall, Stanford: In 2003, Hall finished third in the NCAA cross-country championships, leading the Cardinal to a team title.