Ward Ries details rise in running; set for long career in finance

Thursday, October 14th, 2021 at 3:01 PM
Ward Ries details rise in running; set for long career in finance by Nate Steis
Photo courtesy of Edinboro Athletics

EDINBORO From soccer obsessed as a youth to state champion in the 3200-meter run, Ward Ries gave running a chance during his high school days, and the accolades continue to follow. 

As a seventh grader, Ries tried cross-country out, but it became more of a chore than a passion. “I did cross-country in the seventh grade and I hated it,” said Ries. “I had been a soccer player my whole life, and running at that point was just so not for me.” 

As a ninth grader at Preston High School in West Virginia, Ries joined the track and field team to give the sport a chance. To his surprise, he enjoyed it as an opportunity to stay in shape for soccer. His high school track and field coach, Paul Martin, took note and encouraged Ries to try dual-sporting in cross-country and soccer during his sophomore year. Ries agreed, and it was the beginning of a shift in his life from a soccer player to a distance runner. 

“The winter of my sophomore year is when I got in contact with my club running coach, Matt Bright. We would meet every single day and run together, which is when I really started to figure it out a bit.” 

As a high school junior, Ries took a tremendous leap as a runner, one that catapulted him towards becoming an all-state runner in both cross-country and track and field. From there, he followed it up with all-state selections in both sports again as a senior. Ries also helped Preston High win a conference championship in men’s cross-country for the first time in over a decade. In track and field in 2018, he went on to become a conference, regional and West Virginia state champion in the 3200-meter run with his fastest time as a high schooler, clocked at 9:38. 

Ries hoped to leave West Virginia for his college experience and initially believed his journey may take him as far south as Florida. However, he received a handwritten letter from former Edinboro University cross-country coach, Ryan Foster, which made him decide to make the three-and-a-half-hour drive to Erie County to check out Edinboro University. 

“I vowed I would never go to Pennsylvania for school and I don’t really know why,” he said. “I also did not want to go to school in West Virginia and was set on heading to North Carolina or Florida. After I got the handwritten letter and looked up the program, I saw they went to nationals regularly, which was something really cool to me.” 

On his visit, Ries was impressed by the brotherhood and the closeness of the Fighting Scots’ cross-country and track and field programs 
 
“I really just fell in love with it,” said the Edinboro senior. “I liked that the team was always together hanging out, running together, and even the team living together. The tradition of the program was something I knew I wanted to be a part of.” 

Since coming to Edinboro, the world as we know it has changed a lot. However, the sport of running has remained a staple in both his life and for the Edinboro athletic department. After initially expecting to redshirt in his first year of college, Ries became an All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) performer and an All-Atlantic Region selection. 

He finished in sixth-place in the 2018 PSAC Championships, a 21st overall mark in the Atlantic Region race, and competed in the NCAA National Championship race. After a strong freshman year between both sports, he took home a U.S. Track Field and Cross-Country Coaches’ Association (USTFCCCA) All-Academic Team nod. 

Ries has become a three-time PSAC Champion with his team, a three-time All-PSAC runner in cross-country, a two-time All-Atlantic Region runner and a two-time participant of the NCAA Championship race.  
 
Though the 2020-21 school year was a challenging one, Ries showed he had remained a consistent runner through difficult times and finished fourth overall at the PSAC Championships, which were held in the spring instead of the fall last school year. On the track and field side, Ries has become obsessed with steeplechase, and hopes to become an NCAA qualifier before the time he graduates.  
 
Due to the 2020-21 school year being influenced by COVID-19, the NCAA granted Ries another year of cross-country and track and field eligibility, a year he plans to use in order to get a master’s degree. Currently, Ries is finishing up a degree in business administration with a concentration in personal financial planning. This education will help him sit for the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) examination in 2022. 

A business background is a perfect career choice for the Preston High product as his father, Tarrell, is a CFP and is the owner of an Edward Jones Investments agency in Kingwood. One day, Ries hopes to take over the family business and become an entrepreneur in his hometown. “I am excited to likely follow in his footsteps because he is very successful and is one of the best people I know,” he said. 

Some other people he credits for being influential in his life include his high school and collegiate teammates. He said this when talking about how much all of those people have meant to him in his journey. “I want them to know that they always weigh heavy on my mind and I care about each of them so much and who they are as individuals. They have all been huge in helping me become who I am today, not just as a runner, but as a person.” 

Specifically, his roommates Nick Amos and Eric Alu have become brothers to him as the trio have spent the last few summers in Edinboro training together to fulfill their athletic and academic potential together. “Those guys have become my home away from home. We make dinner together every night and just enjoy a lot of the same things like thrifting and video games.” 

A college experience interrupted by COVID-19 has not been fun for college-aged students to endure over the last year and a half. Many have found new hobbies and discovered new passions along the way. However, Ward Ries just kept on running and continues to work towards the goals he has set for himself in athletics and in his career. 

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