12/01/2017 Chris Karlesky

Records and Resolve

This magazine article is part of Fall 2017 / Issue 90
  • On the track at Sponaugle-Williamson Field in 2017, the year Ward won the gold in all her competitions. Image Credit: Eric Forberger

Diplomat Spotlight: Alyssa Ward ’18

During a typical F&M indoor or outdoor track & field meet, it’s easy to spot Alyssa Ward ’18. The multi-talented star is seemingly everywhere—competing in the high jump, long jump, triple jump, relay events, and occasionally the hurdles.

But near the end of the meet, it becomes much more difficult to find Ward. Where has she gone?

“My teammates know where to find me,” Ward says with a smile. “I’ll be off in the distance, taking a nap beside the track. I’m usually exhausted by that point. They have to wake me up to get me back on the bus.”

Ward is used to a heavy workload on the track. A native of Teaneck, N.J., she attended Tabor Academy in Massachusetts and set school records in the high jump, long jump, triple jump and 200 meters. At F&M, she holds the indoor and outdoor records for the long jump and the outdoor record for the triple jump. She also briefly held the 60-meter hurdles record. She won Field Performer of the Year at the Centennial Conference Outdoor Championships last year after jumping 18 feet, 5 inches in the long jump—topping the school record by more than 10 inches.

“It was the best jump of my track career,” Ward says. “I usually jump in the high 16s or low 17s. It was windy, and I was trying to keep my braids out of my face. But everything worked. My form was good. I didn’t think I could jump 18 feet.”

Ward applied to F&M after falling in love with the campus and the diversity of the student body during a visit. Since enrolling, she has extended her busy life on the track to other phases of campus life. She serves as secretary of Hair Junkies, a newly launched student club that provides support for women and men who want to start their natural-hair journey, and also works 10 hours per week at Shadek-Fackenthal Library helping with the interlibrary loan program.

She’s also found time to build a special studies major in global environmental economics while working toward a minor in Japanese culture. She’s had a passion for Japan ever since watching “Spirited Away,” a Japanese animated fantasy film, as a child. Last year she studied abroad in Japan and deepened her passion for the culture and its people—even after a scary experience.

“I went to an interesting Japanese hotel in Nikko, where they had no beds and everyone dressed in robes and socks,” she said. “One morning, a friend and I went up to watch the sunrise from a hot spring on the roof, and an earthquake struck. Everything started shaking. I panicked—I thought, what do we do?”

Ward hasn’t let the moderate earthquake affect her resolve to return to Japan. One of her goals after graduation is to work at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. She’d also like to study for a master’s degree in public administration at Columbia University.

In the meantime, she continues to manage her busy schedule and chase school records, especially the one she covets most—the high jump. The indoor track & field season begins in December. If you can’t spot Ward competing in one of her many events, you know where to find her.


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