Bowen: Meet Jordan Ward, determination personified
I had the opportunity to meet a Texas’ Avord High senior at a restaurant late one night down in Austin during the spring of 2012.
It was late-night because our Red Oak track boys and the Avord track girls were eating at the same restaurant after the state track meet. We had a young man from Red Oak named Alex Saucedo who had just taken the bronze medal in the grueling 800-meter run.
When I first saw Jordan Ward in the restaurant, I immediately recognized her by the Avord jersey she wore… and by the gimpy way she walked. You wouldn’t expect a young lady who had won two gold medals in both hurdle races early in the day to be gimpy. But the “gimpiness” came compliments of her third and final race of the night: the sprint relay.
On the anchor leg of the exciting “4-by-4” relay, Ms. Ward took the baton in third place. Quickly, she displayed her speed and closed the gap on the two runners in front of her, even before she got out of the first curve. She took the lead at the top of the final curve and had built an eight-meter lead by the time she passed where our Red Oak team was sitting in the stands near the final stretch.
From where we watched we could see that the runner in fourth place had also run a great leg. In fact, with 50 meters to go, she had pulled into second place. Jordan could feel her coming on strong, too, and with 20 meters left she began reeling and leaning and fighting to hold her off. She was determined not to settle for a silver medal. Her team had entrusted her with the baton for the final stretch, and she was intent on bringing home the gold – for her team, her coaches, her school, and herself.
But as she strained every muscle to finish these last few meters, she leaned too far, and – 10 feet short of the finish line – she fell face-first on the track.
Then, helplessly, she crawled to the finish line.
By the time she slid her battered knees across the line, three girls had passed her, leaving her team in fourth place.
It was disheartening that at the award ceremony Jordan Ward and her team did not occupy their place on the medal stand. But, in the end, I think occupied a more special place: She occupied a place in a good many hearts.
Something gripped me as I watched her – almost in slow motion – collapse short of the finish line and crawl to the finish, short of her goal. Hers was an awful and heart-wrenching end to a race. But it was not heart-wrenching because she stopped short or because she did not bring all that she had. No, she spent every bit of energy and effort and determination and zeal the good Lord had given her. She pushed and shoved, scratched and clawed, dug and dived, and then she crawled the last few steps.
But in that heart-wrenching” bitter end, she took to the podium of life and taught us a great lesson: Giving your absolute all does something more enduring than winning: It makes you and me want to give our all today!
Now, to me, that’s really something, especially considering it has been five years since Jordan Ward’s bloody knees crawled across that agonizing finish line!
Steven Ray Bowen is a former Granger who lives in Red Oak, Texas.