Jared Ward, who finished 14th at the 2012 NCAA Cross-Country Championships as a BYU junior, is sitting out this season because he ran in “a recreational race for coaches, parents and other supporters of the athletes,” in 2009, according to a report.
The race was a prelude to a competitive cross-country race his brother was running in, according to the Deseret News.
It is a just-for-fun event whose entrants range from teens to 70-year-olds. The race is so lighthearted that some of the entrants wear costumes.
“I had to get in a workout that day anyway, so I thought I’d just jump in the race,” Ward told the newspaper. “A lot of the entrants try to get a laugh out of the kids, so they wear costumes. I recall someone wearing a tuxedo and another guy in a bird suit and a monkey or gorilla costume. It’s not uncommon.”
The newspaper detailed how Ward lost eligibility over that race. He had to fill out normal NCAA compliance forms when he enrolled at BYU, one year removed from high school because he took a Mormon mission.
According to NCAA rules, athletes who are a year removed from high school are not allowed to compete in organized competitions that will give them a competitive advantage. It is designed to prevent athletes from participating in competitive leagues that would give them an advantage before beginning college.
The NCAA deemed the race Ward ran in to be an organized competition that gave him a competitive advantage. He would lose one season of collegiate cross-country running.
“If I were trying to gain an advantage by running in a competitive race, I wouldn’t have chosen that race,” Ward told the newspaper. “It’s not a competitive effort.”
The Deseret News reported Ward continued to run in 2010, 2011 and 2012, hoping the NCAA would change its mind. It didn’t, even after two BYU appeals. So, his eligibility was up after three seasons rather than the customary four.
Ward was BYU’s top finisher at the NCAA Championships last year and the sixth best non-senior runner in the country. Without him, BYU was No. 5 in the NCAA Cross-Country Rankings last updated a week ago.
The NCAA Cross-Country Championships are in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 23.