Tuesday, April 23, 2024

UTSA graduate Harrison Wade found strength through the tough times

UTSA graduate Harrison Wade found strength through the tough times

Harrison Wade competes at the 2022 NCAA South Central Regional on November 11 in College Station. Wade will earn his bachelor's degree from UTSA on December 13. Photos courtesy of RJ Sports


NOVEMBER 29, 2022 — When Harrison Wade was 13 years old, his father recruited him to participate in a local fun run in their native Sydney, Australia. The City2Surf run attracts more than 85,000 participants each August for a 14 km (8.7 mile) course that takes Sydneysiders from Hyde Park to Bondi Beach.

At the time, Wade and his father were running about 10 km (6.2 miles) before school each day.

“My dad would take me out a few weeks before the race, and we’d run a little bit just to train,” Wade says. “I was one of the fittest little kids in my school.”

In Australia, the high school years are equivalent to American grades seven through 12. When Wade entered the seventh grade, he joined his school’s cross country team, where he advanced to a state race, placed eighth and just missed qualifying to compete on the national team.

“I’d seen other people qualify, but I’d never got anywhere close to that level. That’s when I was like, ‘Okay, I’m actually kind of good at this. Maybe I should take this seriously.’”

“It's good to grow as a person, because that's what life's going to be like. You can't really predict what will happen; you’ve got to be flexible.”

Running was going well for Wade until his senior year in high school, when he suffered a stress reaction in his foot. For the remainder of the 2018 season, doctors took him off the track to prevent his injury from becoming a stress fracture, an actual break that could have been devastating to his running career.

While Wade healed, he missed the qualifiers for the Australian team to compete at World Juniors. Yet he pressed on through the disappointment and, after graduating from high school, joined the University of Sydney cross country and track and field teams while being coached by Phil Moore.

“Coach Moore showed me what a good coach was like. He gave up a lot for his athletes. He showed us all the time that he cared for us,” said Wade. “He helped me get to my athletic goals, and he showed me what it was like to be a good person. I give a lot of credit to him for who I am.”

Wade regained his strength over time and caught the attention of UTSA Track and Field Coach David Hartman, who sent him an Instagram message inviting him to consider UTSA.

“Once I made the decision to come to UTSA, I really was like mentally preparing myself for six months to be living by myself. I got the crash course in cooking and cleaning and all of that ’cause I hadn't really had to do that.”

In fall 2019, Wade moved 9,100 miles away to the U.S. and began electrical engineering classes at UTSA, where he spent much of his first semester acclimating to living on his own and meeting other UTSA student-athletes.

But in his second semester, he suffered another injury. This time it was a stress fracture in his sacral vertebra. To make matters worse, just when he needed his doctors and trainers the most, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, isolating him even more.

“Things started to get tougher for me,” he admits. “I was away from home. The indoor track season was going on. I had all these goals. I was like, ‘Okay, it's not going to plan. How am I going to deal with it?’”

Wade relied on phone calls with his family, support from his teammates and friends, and guidance from UTSA’s coaches, medical staff and trainers. Ten weeks later, he was competing again.

The Australian native will finish his UTSA athletics career highlighted by achieving Third Team All-Conference at the Conference USA (C-USA) Cross Country Championships in 2019 and contributing to a fifth-place team finish at this year’s C-USA Championships.

Wade will also finish his UTSA journey with hands-on engineering experience. Working with three other classmates, he helped create a valuable senior design project: a power data acquisition system for H-E-B Dairy Processing.

“That experience was really awesome,” he said. “H-E-B got us into the factory. I never really thought of what being an electrical engineer would actually look like. It was great to get in there and see one way you could create.”

With Commencement around the corner, Wade is preparing for his return to Adelaide, South Australia, where his family now resides. With his bachelor’s degree in hand, he’ll begin applying for jobs in renewable energy or product design.

The UTSA senior, now 23, looks back on his early college days and says he’s grown tremendously. He was elected to be a senior senator in the Student Government Association and served as a student government liaison for the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. Yet he wishes he had explored campus life a bit earlier in college.

“At the start, I thought, ‘I'm just gonna study. I'm just gonna run.’ But I've learned it's beneficial for everything to have balance,” he says. “It's good to grow as a person, because that's what life's going to be like. You can't really predict what will happen; you’ve got to be flexible.”

Christi Fish

UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
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of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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