Lessons learned should propel Shocker this year

Wichita State University became the new home for Jared Belardo following a strong track and field career performing for the Leavenworth Pioneers.

The graduate of LVHS (class of 2015) moved south and immediately got going on trying to do even more to add to his career marks.

“Not much has changed since I got to Wichita State,” Belardo said. “I got to school two years ago and started training hard and we’ve been rolling ever since. Freshman year was the best season of my career, winning conference as a team indoor and outdoor, and getting four individual titles between the indoor and outdoor season, earning All-American at the NCAA indoor meet, and winning the Midwest D1 Field Athlete of the Year award. 

“Nothing can compare to that year yet, but I’m not finished. That first year was long and at the end of the season, I didn’t want to stop training and I believe that’s why my sophomore year was such an injury filled year. I did not give my body enough time to recover. I’ve taken a little over two months off now, and I feel healthier than ever so going into my junior year I am confident that it should mirror my freshman year, if not be better than that freshman year.”

Taking his talents to the next level, Belardo soon realized he had a lot more to learn.

“College sports are more than I thought they were going to be,” Belardo said. “Everything is on such a bigger scale than in high school. Running collegiate track and field is almost like having a job. Just about every day of the week I am doing something track and field related. It kept me extremely busy, but I am enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would have at first.

“The rudest awakening is how long you have to train to have a decent season. For us, we basically train year-round. Your typical track athlete will train from July-May, but if you make the post-season meets your season could go all the way until June, July or even August. These long periods of a training take a toll on your body, and after my first year I was not expecting that.”

He also learned some simple things that should help him as he continues to mature into a stronger athlete.

“We have seven months full of competition almost every weekend with a couple of weekends off in the mix,” Belardo said. “Your success in track and field is also heavily dependent on how you treat your body. Any sport could say the same, but I feel that it is more important to take care of yourself in track and field because of how intense full-speed sprinting, throwing implements or jumping is. You must eat right, get the right amount of sleep, spend adequate time recovering and make the right choices on the weekends or else your body will not function at a high enough level to compete in collegiate track and field.”

At least he was able to go through this process while toiling close to home.

“I’m close enough to where I can come home if the family needs anything and I can see my close friends quite a bit, but I sometimes wish I went somewhere further away,” Belardo admits. “Schools down south and on the coast get better weather and can spend more time training outside which is a huge advantage in track in field. Overall, I am very content with still being in Kansas though.”

Kansas is his home and Leavenworth High is what helped make this reality what it is today.

“I remember everything that happened in high school,” Belardo said. “All the injury struggles my junior year, choking at state that same year in the long jump and taking second place, being stuck at the same long jump PR from sophomore year until the middle of senior year, narrowly missing the team state championship twice. I could go on about all of my good performances, bad performances, set backs, etc., all throughout my high school career. 

“Everything I went through in high school has made me into the athlete I am today, and I am grateful for the LV coaching staff and all that they did. The memory that sticks to me the most is my entire senior year leading up to me breaking the state record in long jump, PR’ing by about two feet that season. After years of long jump struggles, I managed to finally get the season I was striving for.”