A Family Bond
By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
August 30, 2009
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Jordan and Karly Hamric share a tremendous passion for running, competing together year-round in cross country as well as track and field for West Virginia University.
But their commitment and dedication to such a hard working field is only intensified by having a family that shares that same fervor. The sisters have well-conditioned parents, Ron and Michelle, who influenced them and drove them to become the talented athletes they are today.
Ron, an engineer by trade, recently took his daughters on a traditional hiking trip out West. Not only was the nature-filled vacation great preparation for the upcoming cross country season, but it was yet another chance for him to spend quality time with his daughters.
And once again, all the laborious running and hiking in one of the more majestic settings proved to be worthwhile for the Hamric sisters.
“The main purpose was to go backpacking because that’s one of the things we do with our dad,” Karly said. “We did some day hikes and sightseeing and stuff too, but we also climbed a mountain. We were in Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming. We had to run in the mornings, too, and with the elevation it was pretty hard because we weren’t used to the altitude.”
Together, all three of them climbed as high as 10,700 feet, according to Jordan. Such an accomplishment is extraordinary for any person, but the achievement is even more transcendent when it is accomplished as a family. Both sisters will have several more opportunities to continue reaching their goals and climbing mountains at the highest of peaks.
The same can be said for their father, who at 52 years young, shows no signs of slowing down. Ron has been an inspiration to his daughters because of his self-commitment to fitness and endurance. He was never a world-class athlete, but his devotion to embark on new challenges during his adult years certainly impressed his daughters.
“He tried to play sports when he was younger but wasn’t very good,” Karly said with a laugh.
“He and my mom started out just walking, and then they began to run and eventually he began to run with us,” Jordan added. “He then got really into the ultra-running, like the 50-mile marathon, and now he wants to do a marathon in every state.”
Subsequently, their father has dropped about 30 pounds since discovering his newfound passion. He also started a cross country program in Bruceton Mills, W.Va., where the family is from, and continues to coach with his wife.
Soon, the family will achieve another milestone when Ron and Michelle make a trip to Utah in October. Ron will be competing in his fifth marathon, already surging through West Virginia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia, while Michelle will be running her first marathon.
With all four close-knit family members sharing a tremendous bond, it is easy to see why Jordan and Karly have evolved into standout athletes. Jordan, a redshirt freshman, is looking to gain even more experience this year as a cross country athlete, while Karly is a redshirt senior who is wrapping up her fall career. In 2008, she enjoyed a 29th place finish at the competitive ECAC Championships.
Looking to add more firepower to a squad that finished fourth at the NCAA Championships last season - the school’s highest finish ever - the Hamric sisters have laid out separate goals this season. Competing for a legitimate championship contender, both are ready to contribute in any way possible.
“Obviously, team goals are pretty high and we would like to be up there in the nation,” Karly stated. “I’d like to try to make the BIG EAST team again, because on our team it’s hard to get into the top nine spots. I’ve gotten about a minute faster each year in my time yet have stayed in the same spot because everyone else has gotten so good.”
With Jordan coming back from injury, her goals remain more modest. But she is prepared to put her extensive training to use, including all the hikes and mountain climbing with her father, to become an even better athlete.
“I had a stress fracture so I’m just starting to get back into running,” Jordan said. “For cross country I want to make the ECAC team, but for indoor track, my goal is to go to the BIG EAST Championships in the mile.”
Their involvement in running goes across two different paths. Karly, who was part of the 2008 All-American distance medley relay team in track and field, emerged as a late bloomer at Preston High. Jordan, however, began earlier in her career after watching her older sister succeed during her senior season.
“I started because of Karly when I was freshman and had done cross country and soccer in the fall, then track and club soccer in the spring,” Jordan said. “I didn’t think I wanted to run in college until my junior year.”
Like Jordan, Karly also played soccer in high school. The sport was her main focal point until she took a wait-and-see approach with cross country – a move that would pay big dividends for her in the end.
“I actually didn’t run cross country until I was a senior and I did track throughout high school,” Karly said. “I liked it and when I started to get better I liked it even more, but it still wasn’t something I was looking forward to doing like soccer. When I was a senior that’s when I really started embracing it, and realized that it was something I wanted to keep doing.”
Both realizations have turned out to be one of the best decisions each has made. Their choice to pursue one of their strongest passions in college has allowed them to knock down any challenge that lies in front of them. Jordan and Karly are the embodiment of endurance and strength, giving every ounce of energy to finish a race; climbing the top of a mountain and eventually, to succeed in a professional career.
In recent years, they have pursued Mount Zion in Utah, have hiked in Michigan and just accomplished last year’s trek across Wyoming. But sometimes the biggest obstacle anyone can face is successfully earning a degree, a task in which both girls are on track to do.
The sisters each major in rather technical fields - Jordan pursuing exercise physiology and Karly studying engineering. Each has a different reason for choosing their major while laying a blueprint for their lives following their collegiate careers.
“I’ve been thinking about optometry school,” Jordan said. “There are only 17 of those schools in the nation and not one here. I want to do that with my degree. I have shadowed my eye doctor and it really interests me.
“My dad is an engineer, and at first I had no idea what I wanted to major in,” Karly added. “I wanted to try engineering and if I didn’t like it I could switch. I also want to focus on the environmental part like him, so it is coincidental.”
Both sisters also had two different perspectives on their college choices. Living just outside of Morgantown, it could have been a given that each was going to choose WVU right away, but such wasn’t the case for Karly.
Luckily for her, the Mountaineers had an affable, easy-going coach who could get the best out of his cross country and track and field athletes.
“I actually wanted to go far away at first, but then when it came closer to making the decision and talking to Sean (Cleary), I knew it would be a good fit here,” Karly admitted. “I’m real glad I came here.
“He is so flexible. If you have a demanding major that conflicted with practice times and meets, they would be like, ‘You can’t major in that.’ But Sean is really flexible and you can work around anything.”
Jordan always bled gold and blue, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to look at a rival school up north. Once again, Cleary, a three-time Mid-Atlantic Coach of the Year, persuaded his recruit to stay near home and run for one of the nation’s elite programs.
“I visited Syracuse and that was the only other school I visited,” Jordan added. “I knew I wasn’t going to go there when I visited, I just wanted to see. I had my mind made up that I wanted to come here; I didn’t want to go far away. I knew the team already, Karly was here and I felt comfortable.
“I really like Sean as well. You can’t really compare other coaches to him.”
In the end, both sisters have shared a special journey together. They have enjoyed the rare occasion of competing as teammates, while having their parents' full support as they live vicariously through their daughters.
As the season gets back into full swing, Jordan and Karly will place a heavy reliance on their speed, strength and endurance in helping the Mountaineers back up last year’s history-making season. More importantly, Jordan and Karly continue to be products of a tight-knit, resilient family, and the love they share for running with their parents is a bond that can never be broken.
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