Graduate of Catholic high school in Baltimore Archdiocese hurdles toward Olympic dream

BALTIMORE (OSV News) -- Dylan Beard says his Olympic dreams "start with God and stay with God."

Those Olympic dreams, which started in the Archdiocese of Baltimore at Archbishop Spalding High School, are just a couple races away from fruition.

Beard, 25, has made quite a leap in the world of track and field since his days as a budding star at the school in suburban Severn.

He is hoping to literally clear his next hurdle and land a spot on the U.S. Olympic team for the 2024 Games in Paris later this summer. He will make his bid for the U.S. team at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, June 21-30.

Beard burst into the national headlines this past February when he stunned the hurdling community with a victory in a 55-meter race at the prestigious Millrose Games in New York City.

Since then, he has appeared on an April segment of the "Today Show." The NBC broadcast highlighted his performance as an unsponsored athlete who is working at a Walmart deli counter to earn funds for his training.

Beard is a bit of a late-bloomer in his sporting discipline. He didn't start competing until his sophomore year at Archbishop Spalding after originally casting his lot with the Cavaliers' football program.

He's been making nothing but impressive strides since.

Beard won numerous Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association titles competing for Archbishop Spalding, earning a scholarship to Wagner University. After two years at the Staten Island, New York, college, he transferred to Hampton University in Norfolk, Va. He earned his undergraduate degree in biochemistry at Hampton before finishing his college athletic career at Howard University in Washington.

At Howard, he earned a master's degree in public health with the goal of becoming a pharmacist or working in public intervention.

After all that schooling and an advanced degree, how did he wind up working at a deli counter in Wake Forest, North Carolina, living with his aunt?

It all comes back to his Olympic dream.

He moved south to work with Reuben McCoy, a coach based at North Carolina State University. The job at Walmart allows him the flexibility to train up to 12 hours a week and supplies funds for his living expenses.

The investment in himself has paid off handsomely the past several months for Beard, who attended Liberty Christian School in the Baltimore suburb of Owings Mills before Spalding and grew up near Druid Hill Park in northwest Baltimore.

After his stunning victory in New York, he followed it up with a win in Power Springs, Georgia, in a tuneup for the trials. He won the 110-meter hurdles in a personal best of 13.10 seconds in a race that he said wasn't even his "best" effort.

"I know I can do better," he said of the victory. "I hit quite a few hurdles so it wasn't my best."

He said his education and the discipline he learned at Archbishop Spalding have been vital in his development as an athlete.

"It really gave me a lot of self-confidence," he told the Catholic Review, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. "It prepared me for the hard work and time management that it takes to become a top athlete. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be in this position.

"It would be amazing to make the Olympic team," Beard said. "Right now, I'm just focused on getting there."

He said his faith plays a big role.

"It's 100 percent a factor," Beard said. "There are times you want to quit, but I stay with God and stay with the process. He always shows me the place that I need to be."

To young athletes chasing their own Olympic dreams, he has a bit of advice after seven years of college and working the night shift so he can train three to four hours a day.

"People might say you're crazy," he said, "but keep working on that vision."

It might just be a golden vision for Beard.

- - - Gerry Jackson is on the staff of the Catholic Review, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.