Although Wright never intended to run for Azusa Pacific University, it seemed like something was always guiding him to the school.
Each time Jared Wright raced against Azusa Pacific’s cross-country team, he watched how they always led the pack. He asked himself how neat it would be to be on a team that controlled the race. Wright described how everyone thought highly of APU’s team. They were the cool kids whom everyone wanted to talk to after the races.
During Wright’s three years of undergrad at Dominican University, at races, he tried to run with APU’s runners. After races, the team would ask Wright if he wanted to cool down with them. Wright recounted, “They would ask ‘Hey how’d your race go? What do you think went well? What went bad?’ And yeah, they just treated me like family even though we were on rival schools.” Little did Wright know that one day he would permanently join them and become a part of APU’s cross-country team.
In high school, Wright knew he wanted to compete in track in college. He originally planned to stay closer to his home in Colorado. However, at the time Wright’s dad lived in northern California, so he decided to give Dominican, located in San Rafael, California, a shot.
Somewhat ironically, Wright’s dad moved back to Colorado to be closer to Wright for his senior year of high school. Even so, upon touring Dominican, Wright knew he’d found the one and decided to make the move to California anyway.
While at Dominican, Wright flourished. He was the first Dominican cross-country runner to make it to nationals. This climatic accomplishment occurred at the NCAA West Regionals Cross Country meet in Billings, Montana where Jared also set the school record for the 10-kilometer race.
Today, Wright considers that regional race as his favorite, but at the time, all he saw were the nine-degree windy conditions couldn’t have been worse. Luckily though, with his Colorado blood that could withstand the cold, Wright knew he had the upper hand. He knew though that he had to persevere and give the performance of his life if he wanted to make nationals. When he came up against a hill, he simply asked “What hill?” and when the winds roared 26 miles per hour he pushed through them.
Crossing the finish line, Wright thought he might have done enough to secure the bid to the NCAA Championships in Seattle, Washington. He had to wait one week to find out for sure.
A week later, Wright checked his phone at work every five minutes for news. “When I finally got the list of names and I saw my name I was instantly shocked and I was overwhelmed with joy. In high school, I always wanted to go to Nike Cross Nationals…and I had that dream for so long. Then I got into the NCAA and I was like ‘it would be really cool to go to the National Champions,’” Wright said, explaining that nationals invitation made the years of hard work worth it.
At Wright’s commencement ceremony at Dominican, Wright won “Outstanding Student.” This honor was given not only for his athletic accomplishments, but his academic ones too. At Dominican where he studied business, each semester he took 18 units so that he could graduate a year early. He also had multiple internships, worked as a student ambassador, was a team captain and played an important role in leading Dominican’s new track and field team.
When asked if he ever got any sleep, he said he actually always went to bed by 8 or 9 p.m. “Since my freshman year at Dominican, I always got called Grandpa J because I went to bed early and people would give me engraved things that said Grandpa J,” Wright said.
Out of all the activities he juggled, one of the most rewarding ventures was teaching English to an underprivileged third-grade classroom of Spanish-speaking students. Over time, the children opened up to Wright, becoming less shy while reading. In the end, they intentionally helped him as much with Spanish as he did with their English.
This experience fueled his love of helping others, which Wright ultimately wants to do through family law. This desire was planted in middle school when his neighbor, a divorce attorney, told him all about the practice. He knew then he could help families who were in similar situations as he had been in.
In high school, he got his first law-related internship where he worked for a family friend. While sitting in on one of the meetings where he witnessed the emotional atmosphere, he longed for the day he could be of greater assurance. “I felt so bad. The guy in the courtroom was crying and I just wanted to be like, ‘It’s going to be ok. I promise you,’” Wright said.
At Dominican, Wright’s future seemed set when he was accepted into law school. He thought Dominican was the end of his running career and he was prepared to move on.
That was until APU head coach, Sean Smith, sent him an email. “Coach Sean reached out and was like ‘Hey you still got two years of eligibility do you want to use them’ and I was like no,’” Wright said. However, his mind changed, realizing that law school would be waiting for him, but he only had a shot at APU once.
His two destinies collided at his final track and field meet with Dominican.
On May 6, Wright and his team competed at the Pacific West Conference Track and Field Championships at APU. Wright recalled, “I was kind of just taking it all in, I was like you know, I’ll be running on this track for the next two years, and I was starting to get to know some of my future teammates. It was super exciting. It was a little emotional because I did develop good bonds at Dominican, but I knew APU would be a perfect fit for me.”
Currently, Wright is in his first year of the Master’s in Business Administration program at APU. As he expected, his cross-country training is now drastically different. Where he feels Dominican developed the mental aspect of running, APU is challenging him physically.
Wright does admit to missing home quite a bit. With all of his classes being online, he’s had to seek out a community, something that was incredibly strong at Dominican. However, not only has his team taken him in, but he’s really enjoyed the family feel at Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).
FCA is another way Wright can learn more about his faith at APU—something that is very important to him.
Although he always believed in God and was baptized Catholic as a baby, until his sophomore year of high school, faith hadn’t been a priority. Because of that, when a friend invited him to church, he pushed it off for weeks until he changed his mind.
Thinking back to his first visit to his friend’s church, Wright said, “I was going through a lot at the time and the people at my church were just so welcoming, and it was my first time going and this guy was just giving me a hug and I’m like I don’t even know what you, what are you doing, and they all prayed for me. It was super fascinating.”
From there, Wright got involved in the church. Flash forward, and he loves how every day he gets to learn about the bible at APU.
Looking to the future, Wright hopes the team wins regionals and places fourth or better as a team at nationals. Everything would have to come together perfectly for this to happen, but he says judging from prior performances, it’s not out of the question.
After college, Wright hopes to get into ultra running, open his own law firm and most exciting to him, start a family someday.
Another thing Wright is set on is moving back to Colorado as soon as he can. California is too hot for him and Colorado has a great community. On the other hand, though, he recognizes, if there’s one thing his running career taught him it’s that you can never know exactly where the path may lead.