Father first, professor and Olympian second

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Jared Ward teaches two statistics classes per week at BYU. He is training for the Olympic marathon this summer and still finds time to spend with his family. (Ari Davis)

In Jared Ward’s office on the second floor of the Talmage building, probability problems cover the whiteboard and marathon training plans cover his desk. A student pokes her head in the office to ask a question about last night’s homework assignment. Then, just when Jared thinks he has a free moment, the phone rings. It’s his 3-year-old son.

“Paul, if you take your nap then me and you can play all the rest of the day,” Jared tells his child.

The BYU adjunct professor is not only a statistics teacher and professional runner preparing to compete in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, but also a devoted husband and father to two young children.

Jared’s path to the Olympics became a reality after he placed third in the 2015 LA Marathon with a time of 2:12:56 — six minutes and four seconds ahead of the 2:19:00 qualifying requirement. Jared then finished in the top three in the 2016 Olympic Trials in February to make the Olympic team.

Jared’s family was there to cheer him on as he finished in third place at the LA Marathon Feb. 13 and qualified for the Olympics. His family’s unconditional support meant everything to him.

“It means so much to me that when I cross the finish line, my wife is going to give me the same big hug if I am first or if I am last. As long as I am happy with the race, she is going to be happy with the race,” Jared said.

Jared Ward finished third in the LA Marathon on Feb. 13 with a time of 2:12:56. He will race the Olympic marathon on Aug. 21 in Rio de Janeiro. (Iain Hunter)

Jared’s road to Rio has been paved by keeping his priorities straight to make time for his extensive training.

“He is really good at setting priorities so he spends time with the kids and me,” Jared’s wife, Erica Ward, said. “He always asks ‘What can I do for you this week?’ or ‘What can I help you with today?'”

Jared wakes up earlier than Erica and their two children so he can study the scriptures and prepare for the day. That’s what helps him balance his various responsibilities, Erica said.

“When you prioritize your life with the things that are most important, everything else just works,” Jared said. “My priority with my wife, kids and family life comes to the very top along with my church life. These things keep me grounded.”

Paul and his 1-year-old sister Ellie love to watch their dad run.

“The kids know that daddy runs twice a day and goes on races,” Erica said. “One of the first things they learn is to clap and say ‘Go Dad!'”

Under the watchful eye of BYU head track and field coach Ed Eyestone, Jared said he is training the same way he did for the LA Marathon and will “tighten up the screws anywhere (he) can” to prepare for Rio.

“He’s got that same kind of scientific approach that he has with his school and applies it to his training and his racing,” Eyestone said. “He prepares meticulously and has great attention to detail.”

Jared, a former BYU track star, graduated last April with a masters in statistics and wrote his thesis on optimal pace strategy for running a marathon.

Even throughout school, Erica said that Jared always put his family first. “For Jared it was less important to get a 4.0 and more important to spend time with us.”

Jared now teaches two statistic classes a week and still finds time to run twice a day and put in 100-120 miles a week.

Clara Hubbard, a sophomore in Jared’s discrete probability class, didn’t know Jared was going to run for the Olympic trials until she saw it on the news. Now it makes for an interesting class discussion.

“He always answers our questions about running and we can always ask him about his training,” Hubbard said.

Jared will run in the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Wales on March 25 in addition to a few other races before the Olympics. The Olympic marathon is Aug. 21.

And yes, he’ll be sporting his iconic mustache.

“Somewhere along the way between my coach having one and the guys at BYU growing one for cross-country nationals, it (the mustache) became a race-day tradition,” Jared said.