I was sitting in an airplane on the tarmac of Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday afternoon, about to depart for Seattle, when I learned the news of the tragic passing of former U.S. Olympic discus thrower and Marysville Pilchuck High School graduate Jarred Rome.
This was absolutely heartbreaking news. Just days earlier I was there to see Rome inducted into the Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame. I still can’t fathom the 42-year-old, who was still a physical specimen and who enthusiastically accepted his induction into the Hall of Fame, is no longer with us.
So instead of the usual Seattle Sidelines poll I post on Mondays, I decided I’d post the full text of Rome’s Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame acceptance speech instead. Here it is:
“I see a lot of purple around here, and I wanted to be a Husky my whole life. I went to the (1991) national championship Rose Bowl game with my dad against Michigan, where Desmond Howard was playing, and Mario Bailey did that wonderful Heisman stance in the end zone. Unfortunately for me, UW didn’t work out. So I went to Boise State, which is the greatest football program in the nation (crowd laughing). Don’t adjust your TV when you see that blue turf. In ‘86 when they put that in it brought a lot of attention to Boise State. When Chris Petersen left I had a tear in my eye, and when he went to the Huskies I smiled pretty hard. Chris Petersen was a great mentor to me at Boise State, and UW is my favorite — second favorite — football program, and I’m a Husky through and through, and it’s great to see him there.
“Tonight’s a great evening, to walk around and be a part of this class. I’d like to thank all the 2019 inductees and the Snohomish County Hall of Fame committee for nominating me. It’s a great honor. And especially to Martin Napeahi. I was in 10th grade and I went out for track to get a varsity letter, I wanted one more stripe on my jacket. I had no clue what was going to happen. Mark was a senior throwing the shot and the discus, I was a sophomore. From the first day on until the end of that season I wanted to be just like him. He set school records I went on to break, and he really took it upon himself to really take me under his wing and show me what it takes to be a great thrower.
“You need mentors in your life. You need people in your life. The two things that I learned in my life that you need to have success are failure— that’s No. 1 — and support. I had lots of failure. I was never the top thrower in high school, I was never the top thrower in college. I went on to beat people who beat me almost every day. I considered myself to be the hardest worker. I never had the talent, and I frankly didn’t believe I could ever make the Olympic team, that was never a goal of mine.
“The support I have shows tonight. My family and friends who are here, without your support I would never be here. I would never have gotten past high school and gone onto Boise State and for sure make two Olympic teams.
“My cousin Jake did something that in this room is one of the most impressive accomplishments I’ve ever heard of or could imagine. He hiked the (Pacific Coast Trail), which I can’t believe what 2,500 miles starting in Mexico up to Canada is like, by yourself, and all you have is a 70-pound pack. But along that way, if he didn’t have the support of my uncle Les and my aunt Donna shipping him food — I can’t imagine what that food was like, it probably wasn’t that good — at every checkpoint, he wouldn’t have made it. I know my uncle somewhere in Washington, I believe the story was that he met him a couple times, gave him some clothes and fed him a couple times, without that he wouldn’t have made it. So that 2,500-mile journey could never be completed without the help and support of family and friends.
“My father and I love to cruise. In fact, dad you’ve been on 150 cruises, if you can imagine that. So 2,500 miles, 150 cruises, same kind of accomplishment. I’ve been on 30 of those with him — yeah, 30 — well during that time I was training for Worlds, I was training for the Olympics, and I was going on these cruises and I remember being on the promenade and would hold my workouts with my equipment, and I would be doing discus turns on the promenade of the cruise ship. The discus turn is quite aggressive and fast, and people don’t really know what that is. So on the promenade of a cruise ship people are walking around and I’m taping a discus to my hand and during turns. He helped with every turn, videoed me. They were on vacation, but there’s no vacation from training. Christmas Eve, Christmas, if that was a training day I would be home at my mom’s house and guess what? I was at MP, in the original discus ring, cracked cement, it’s still there, doing turns Christmas morning. My mom would be very upset, but I’d say, ‘Hey, there are people out there who are training today, so I better be out there.’
“That takes me back to 2003, I placed 14th at U.S. Nationals. The top three go to the Olympics, but that was a World Championships year. You got to get top three to make Worlds or the Olympics, I got 14th. I was three years out of college, I’d graduated from Boise State in 2000. I went to practice the next morning and I said, ‘I’m done, that’s it, I’m 14th, I’m not going make the Olympic team next year.’ She looked at me and said, ‘You’re moving to the Olympic training center down in Chula Vista, California, and you’re going to make that Olympic team.’ That goes back to support. If she hadn’t said that to me that day, I had it in my mind that I was retiring. How do you get top three? They throw further than I believed I could. She believed I could. The next year as you saw I went to the trials and won. That started here, so thank you.
“Pam, my wife. In 2012 I met her at the Olympic training center, she’s on the U.S. field hockey team, one of the best field hockey athletes in the nation. Out of the selection they select 16 women to make that final Olympic team in field hockey. She’s 17. So you can imagine what that feels like, that she’s 16 and you’re 17. One month later I had the Olympic trials, so she put that aside and put all her efforts on me, because she knew for me to make it at that point I needed her support. You put your whole life aside, all your training and all your effort, and as unhappy as you are you say, ‘My husband needs me now because he has to make the Olympic team.’ She supported me that month, came with me to the trials, and as hard as it was for her even flew to London. She’s in the athletes’ village with me, seeing the 16 girls who made that team — how hard is that? — to support me. I can’t thank you enough, I can’t imagine doing that and I really appreciate it.
“Every coach you have and teacher, whether it’s preschool all the way up to an Olympic-level coach, whether they’re good or bad, you learn something from every single one of them. I had 11 coaches in 21 years, that’s not ideal. But for me it was, because I learned what I didn’t want to do, and I learned what I wanted to do from each and every single one of them.
“So for everyone that had an impact on my life, whether it’s Mrs. Myers, my second-grade teacher, to Conrad (name unknown), who was my throws coach in high school, Mr. Lowery when I played basketball, all of that accumulates to who you are. It has nothing to do with sports, it has to do with the person you become. Every single person in your life, and that support, is there to mold you into the human being you are.
“So thank you very much. Thanks to my family and friends who came, you mean so much. And thanks to everyone, it’s great to be here.”