This is part 2 of the Jessica Beard, speaking on relays, and competing in 2020. This piece is done by Stuart Beard, our European correspondent, who lives in Oxford, England. Besides playing golf in non pandemic times, Stuart spends some time at athletic events.
Jessica Beard Part 2
While Jessica Beard has won six World Championship medals, she has only made the US team for the individual 400m once, such is the competition and – from an international perspective – the brutality of the US trials.
Most years her times would have been good enough to make the team in any other nation But USA. There must be times when the difficulty in making an American team is a real frustration. “Sometimes”, she admitted. “You can run, say, 50.6 in the semis at the U.S. trials and then think, ‘Whao! I have to drop even more for the final’. In 2016, I think fourth place in the final was 50.2 – and that could have got you in the final at the Olympics. The mindset is that you already know it, that making the team is so difficult so you think ‘if I can make this team, I could win an individual meda’l. So that is where I think the focus goes to. It’s hard, but you’ve got to persevere and you know that if you can get in the top three at trials, you can reach the final at the championship. It’s very possible and from the U.S. trials you’re used to running rounds at an intense pace. It can be frustrating if you have multiple seasons of being fourth or fifth”.
In 2020, Beard was affected by the pandemic like everyone else. Her season was 4 weeks long, in which she ran two 400s, three 200s and a 300. “To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was going to have a season. I did a time trial with my training partners back in February and I ran 52.3 and was thinking, ‘I can’t wait for March’. Then all the tracks closed and we were back running on grass. So we’re all asking when will the tracks reopen and will there be enough time to transition back into spikes and sprinting. There is only so much you can do on grass. Even if you are running fast it doesn’t feel the same. A soccer field is not the same as an oval. I ended up running I think two 200s and a 300, so it was “what’s going on?” I had an opportunity or two to run in Europe. But I wasn’t sure if I could even get to Europe and I didn’t think that I wanted to go that far this year just for one race. And if I do get to Europe, will I be stuck there. There were too many unknowns for me; the whole season seemed random. But if you think about how people plan a season, everything was turned upside down. The hardest part was that we didn’t really have the chance to transition and also some people had access to track much earlier than others. But it was really frustrating”.
This year she is a full-time Grad student at Texas A&M while also trying to be a full-time athlete. “The plan was that I was taking a year off to prepare for the Olympics and then I was going back to school in the fall in order to finish in the spring but with the Olympics being postponed my schedule is now pretty busy with studies and training. I’m currently doing a course on economics and sport which is interesting and answers a number of questions I had about track and field”. Fortunately her semester finishes by Thanksgiving and doesn’t re-start until mid January, then finishing a month early, in April, which will suit her training schedule.
Faith is another important aspect of her life: “Being a Christian helps me not to put my identity completely in the sport. I think that’s very hard for some athletes to separate. Sport is important because it’s going to help to get you to the places you need to go. But I also know that it is Christ who is helping me to go to these places”.
Away from the track, she describes herself as “I’m quite goofy” She adds: “People sometimes say to me “I didn’t realize you were that funny” – I don’t know if that means I come across as serious. I like laughing and things that make me laugh”.
She enjoys cooking and eating and sharing the results on social media. She enjoys writing: “I’ve had friends tell me I should write something. I enjoy relaxing and I feel I don’t get to do that enough. I mean in the off-season like one year I went to Hawaii. Being in Florida I like going to the beaches, just looking at the water. If am up early enough to see the sun rise, that is special”.
It doesn’t look as if she will get bored any time soon!