Photos by Hillary Ehlen
In what he thought would be his final track meet as a North Dakota State Bison, Jacob McBride did what he deems as the “amazing”. What ensued was a run to the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, otherwise known as Tracktown, USA.
For McBride, the journey to North Dakota State was one that came by surprise. A native of Thatcher, Arizona, the senior attended Mesa Community College in Arizona before pondering what to do next. Little did he know that he would spend his final two years of eligibility in Fargo and finish his outdoor career on a momentous note.
McBride says that after he left Mesa Community College he just wanted to find a school where the hammer throw would get him an education. “I had offers from some other decent schools,” he said. “But they either did not have the program I wanted academically or I didn’t click with the coach. When I talked with Justin (St. Clair) he was really straightforward about what he could offer me and why he wanted me and that felt good.”
Leaving home was never the issue for McBride, who at one time lived in the Philippines. However, he said that after talking with Coach Justin St. Clair he looked up North Dakota State online. “I looked up the school and Justin and I was like ‘okay, I can do this’.” Jacob can now readily admit that he was also somewhat desperate to find a school to attend for the fall semester.
“It was June and I hadn’t committed anywhere and if I was going to go to school the next semester, I needed to make a decision,” he said. “So, I made that decision, moved up here and it’s been amazing ever since. It’s been tough, you get pushed to the limits in this program, but it was awesome.”
Much of this has to do with Coach St. Clair, who commands the throwing competitions for the Bison Track & Field team. He was recently named the Midwest Region Assistant Coach of the Year, his third consecutive year winning the award. McBride agrees that St. Clair is wholly deserving of the accolades. “He knows the sports better than any man I’ve ever met as far as an all-around coach,” he said. “I could not have asked for someone who could do shot put, discus and hammer and get me as good as I did. I’ve hated him at times and absolutely loved him at others so it’s kind of that typical relationship other than the fact that he is a terrific coach.”
With the help of Coach St. Clair, McBride was able to squeeze into the hammer throw field at the NCAA West Preliminaries in Sacramento. However, he was considered an underdog in every sense of the word. Coming into the competition, McBride was ranked 42nd out of a possible 48 throwers. Even Jacob considered his chances at Nationals to be rather slim. “I honestly expected it to be my last meet,” he said. “That’s the way I went into it, you know. It was just another meet, my last meet, give it my all and see what happens, and the amazing happened.”
The “amazing” as McBride describes it was him uncorking a monster throw on his very first attempt of the competition. He threw a 209-9 (63.95m), which was a personal best for McBride and the fourth longest throw in North Dakota State history. “I was just excited to be going out on a PR because that was an awesome throw,” he said.
Considering it was his first throw, McBride had to wait over two hours to find out if his throw was good enough to take him to Eugene. “There were a couple times where I was about to throw up because I knew it was a mark that could make it,” he said. “It was two hours of sitting and counting every throw, watching, waiting and it was nerve-racking.”
In the end, McBride finished 11th which was enough to punch his ticket to Oregon and the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. “I did not expect to jump those 31 athletes there even with the mark that I did get. I feel bad for the athletes that I skipped over, but in the end, it was whoever competed that day and I just happened to be one of those guys,” he said. For the senior, the realization of making it to Nationals took some time to set in. “I don’t think it actually hit me that I made it to Nationals until that night and I couldn’t fall asleep after that,” he said. “It took until like two in the morning for me to finally get to sleep because I was thinking, ‘oh crap, I made it’.”
“Realizing how far I’ve come is humbling.”
Despite the NCAA Championships being the peak of competition for McBride, he was more excited to soak in the moment. “I told a couple of the guys that I wanted to throw well, but just being there is an absolute honor and to be alongside the best of the best,” he said. “I was one of the first events, threw just over my career average and I was absolutely satisfied.” The senior finished his career strong by throwing at 199-3 (60.75m) and ending up in 24th place in the hammer throw. That distance garnered him honorable mention All-America status. “It was the best way I can imagine ending a career,” he said.
Though his time as a North Dakota State athlete has ended, McBride reflects on how much he has grown and what he has accomplished in his two years at the school. “I think back to high school when I was a little bit cockier and I thought I could rule the world. Realizing how far I’ve come is humbling,” he said. “I mean I didn’t have a coach my junior or senior year of high school, ended up going to community college. I didn’t think I was ever going to be able to make it at that point. To actually, finally, make it to Nationals, I have realized my high school dream. It was extremely humbling and just a thank you to all the people who helped me along the way.”
It’s been a long journey for Jacob McBride. From high school to community college to North Dakota State he has been successful at every level. Now, he takes his Bison memories, the most important being his run to the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships with him. McBride says he now plans to move to Idaho where he has family and try to build a life there.
While there are plenty of unknowns in his future, there is nothing debatable about Jacob McBride’s Bison career. Thanks to his strong finish, he has memories that will last a lifetime.