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PROVO — Jared Ward was recovering from his first marathon when he was surprised with the news that the remainder of his senior season of eligibility for cross-country might be reinstated by the NCAA.
Ward's eligibility was reinstated after his case garnered national attention in November, allowing him to compete in the last two races of the season for Brigham Young University's cross-country team. Two hours after he heard the NCAA's verdict, he was on a bus with his teammates traveling to a regional competition.
“When things started surfacing and reappearing it was really like a whirlwind experience,” Ward said. “When I was out in Chicago running the marathon, there was no thought that I would have a possible chance of running cross-country. It was one of those things where it was just out of my mind."
He had unsuccessfully tried to appeal the NCAA's decision to sideline him for participating in a fun run before. Ward lost a year of eligibility after he came home from his mission in 2009 and ran in a race featuring people were wearing costumes before one of his brother's high school races. The NCAA claimed it gave him a competitive advantage.
After returning to the team, Ward went on to be named an All-American for his participation at the regional and national meets. He took fourth place at the regional meet in Ogden just hours after his eligibility was reinstated and placed 36th at the NCAA championships in Indiana the following week. BYU placed fourth at nationals as a team.
“It was mostly fun to just be back with my teammates,” Ward said. “I train with some of the best guys in the world, I’m convinced, and it was fun just to travel with them and be back on the team competing for BYU."
Now Ward is looking forward to the upcoming BYU track and field season, plus a possible Olympic bid for marathon running. His time at the Chicago Marathon, 2:16:17, qualified him for the 2016 Summer Olympic trials.
When I was out in Chicago running the marathon, there was no thought that I would have a possible chance of running cross- country. It was one of those things where it was just out of my mind.
While he wasn't able to compete for BYU, Ward kept in shape by preparing for the Chicago Marathon. Head coach Ed Eyestone, a two-time Olympian for marathon running, wrote a marathon training program for Ward that he followed from the middle of summer through October.
“It’s very different, but I really enjoyed it,” Ward said. “After college is over, I’d like to pursue actively training for the marathon distance for a couple of years.”
Ward played soccer growing up, but really looked up to some of his cousins who were runners. He started running for Davis High School in 9th grade after one of his cousins talked to the coach. He said he wasn't very good, and the coach always tells stories about how surprised he is at how things turned out.
Ward expressed thanks to everyone who supported him through the process of having his eligibility reinstated. He will graduate from BYU in April. He and his wife have a 20-month-old son and another child on the way.