Journey to the Long Jump

A late bloomer in track and field, John Wise has become a tough competitor

(Photo by Ryan Ketterman)

Track and field was John Wise’s favorite sport in high school. As an adult, however, he had a nagging feeling that he could have been a star long jumper if his high school coached a more competitive team and he had gotten the proper instruction. In 2006, after digging up old workout clothes, he quickly realized that his spirit was far more resilient than his 38-year-old body.

But the determined Orlando, Florida, resident decided to design a fitness protocol and compete in a regional open track and field meet. He faired well and was encouraged to enter a national competition in North Carolina that year through the masters division of the USA Track & Field association (www.usatf.org). Wise hired a trainer and placed first in his age division of 35–39. The win whet his appetite for a more celebrated competition, and Wise decided to enter the 2007 World Meet in Italy. “I really got serious,” says the 43-year-old pharmaceutical sales executive. “If I was going, I was going to win. I found a track coach and got into a serious routine.” Wise placed third, with an impressive jump of 6.6 meters.

Now in a new age division of 40-44 and adjusting to life with a newborn, Wise is still aggressively competing. This summer he plans to participate in a national meet in California. “If I had put my heart and soul into it, how far could I have gone?” Wise often wondered about his high school years. “How good could I have been?” Today, those questions no longer haunt him.

This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

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