Jessica Beard, 2021 USATF Indoors, photo by Kevin Morris / @kevmofoto
Jessica Beard handing off, Yokohama World Relays, photo by World Athletics
This writer has enjoyed speaking with Jessica Beard since her first US team in 2009. I will see her warming up, and say hello, or get a few minutes with her post-event. Jessica Beard is one of the most prolific 4x400m relays and mixed relay runners on Team USA. The real story is, Jessica is one of the toughest and most consistent relay runners on the US team. Stuart Weir did this fifth preview on one of our top relay runners.
Serial relay gold-medal collector, Jess Beard
Jessica Beard has won five gold and a silver medal in world championship relays! She was in the USA winning team in the women’s 4 by 400 in 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2019 as well as winning the mixed relay in 2019. She missed out on selection for Tokyo but is back in the USA team for Belgrade.
Playing basketball in high school, she received a life-changing, throw-away line from the basketball coach. He said “maybe you should run track” thinking that it would help her basketball. The rest, as they say, is history.
World Relays 2019, Yokohama, Japan, photo by World Athletics
Asked what her career highlight is, she reflected: “That’s hard! I think it changes. The 2009 Berlin World Championships were big because that was my first senior U.S. team, running the open 400 and running the 4 by 400 with the extra significance of Berlin being where Jesse Owens had run and what he represented and what he did, especially with me being from Ohio. I was 20 years old, still in college, and that was a really big deal for me. 2011 in Deagu stands out as well because in 2009 I had only run the prelim but in 2011 I ran the final with Sanya, Allyson, and Francena. So to run in the final and get the gold medal, I was thinking I want to experience this every time I run”
2013 was bitter-sweet. The USA finished second but a Russian athlete subsequently tested positive and the Russians were disqualified and the USA upgraded. She was presented with that medal in London 2017.
Jess Beard, 2022 USATF Indoor, photo by Kevin Morris / @kevmofoto
She told me that she enjoys relays, “It’s a great way to bond. It forces you to put aside any personal differences you might have. One day they are your competitors in the individual and the next day you’re a team. But none of that matters for it’s now all about unity and running together for one cause to be victorious. Doha 2019 was my first mixed relay and I loved it. I was thinking I should have done this sooner. It was fun. I don’t know any other way to put it. Not that other relays aren’t fun but they are always very serious. Not that the mixed wasn’t serious but I didn’t know what the expectation was”.
Her Christian faith is central to her life and keeps her grounded, “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 getting me to go to these places. I know I have a gift and talent from God”.
At 33, Beard is something of a veteran but don’t write her off just yet.