Junior James Ryden has always been fast. Since the time he was in middle school, he noticed he was faster than his classmates, which prompted him to pursue cross country throughout high school.
“I’ve always enjoyed running,” said Ryden. “I’ve also always been competitive, so cross country was an easy way for me to compare myself to others and see how I shaped up.”
Ryden’s time at Georgia College has proved he shapes up pretty well when it comes to competition. He ranks in the top 10 times in Georgia College history both in 8K and 10K distances and came in first, beating out 155 runners, in the Pop Crowell Invitational in Wenham, Mass. in 2013.
“For me it was a bit of a surprise to come in first,” said Ryden. “I’d never accomplished that before and up until then, wasn’t something I thought I could do.”
Ryden’s tenacity for cross country transfers over to his academics. With a major in psychology and a minor in chemistry with a concentration in pre med, he’s no stranger to a full schedule.
“Cross country forces you to be on a strict schedule and use your time wisely,” said Ryden. “Carrying that over and being extremely organized in my academics has helped me a lot.”
Cross country head coach Joseph Samprone Jr. says Ryden’s ability to give it his all on the track and in the classroom is what makes him a standout competitor.
“James is a great student and an accomplished cross country runner for the same reason—he leaves nothing to chance,” said Samprone. “He sets goals, both academic and athletic, and then he develops a strategy to accomplish those goals. Then he does the work.”
Along with a full workload, Ryden also holds a 4.0 GPA, which he attributes to being on a steady schedule. Despite the rigor of his undergraduate courses, Ryden has maintained a stellar GPA all while balancing cross country—a task he hopes will aid him in medical school, where he plans to study pediatrics.
“Being the oldest out of my group of cousins growing up really made me realize I love taking care of others,” said Ryden. “That same sense of helping others made me want to become a pediatrician.”
He plans to attend Georgia Regents University after graduating from Georgia College next year. With the challenge of medical school on the horizon, Ryden insists cross country has prepared him for the task ahead.
“Cross country has taught me a lot about never giving up,” said Ryden. “Even at times when every muscle is telling you to stop, to give up—you have to push against that and keep going.”