Jarred Rome is being remembered not just for his athletic accomplishments, but also for his affable personality and dedication to giving back to his community.
Rome, the two-time U.S. Olympic discus thrower from Marysville, was found dead in his Tulalip Resort Casino hotel Saturday morning. He was 42. The cause of his death has not yet been determined.
Rome, who was an assistant coach with the Boston University track and field team, was back home because he was inducted into the Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame last Wednesday.
“It was a gut punch,” Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame committee chairman Frank Foster said.
“I was so impressed with Jarred,” Foster added. “Not just because of his athletic prowess, but his love for his family and friends. That resonated with the people I spoke with after the banquet, they were so impressed with him. It was truly a sad, sad day for all of us when we heard of his passing.”
Rome is one of the most decorated athletes in Snohomish County history. The 1995 graduate of Marysville Pilchuck High School was a three-sport star during his prep days as a member of the Tomahawks’ football, boys basketball and track and field teams. It was in the throwing events where he excelled most, as he went on to become a six-time track and field All-American at Boise State University in the discus and shot put. He made the U.S. Olympic team in the discus for both the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2012 Olympics in London, and he won the U.S. national championship in the discus in 2011, for which he was named The Herald’s 2011 Man of the Year in Sports.
During his acceptance speech at the Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame Banquet last Wednesday, Rome made a point to thank Martin Napeahi, who was two classes ahead of Rome at Marysville Pilchuck and who helped inspire Rome into becoming a discus thrower. On Tuesday, Napeahi spoke about Rome’s caring nature.
“On Wednesday night after the ceremony, we were kind of gathering up everything and saying our goodbyes, and the last words we exchanged were, ‘I love you,’” said Napeahi, who was one of the individuals who nominated Rome for the Snohomish County Sports Hall of Fame. “That’s the kind of person he was. He had a huge heart, and if you were in his circle he just loved you.
“He was always willing to help out,” Napeahi continued. “I’d send him videos of my kid or other athletes I coach, and he’d break them down and give us pointers and critiques if he had the time. His plate was full enough already, but he took the time out of his busy life and career in coaching to take time to help us.”
Darrell Walker, who grew up playing sports with Rome and was in the same graduating class at Marysville Pilchuck, concurred.
“I think most people who knew him will remember his laugh,” Walker said. “It was contagious, man. He had this contagious laugh, and he was such a big man you couldn’t miss him. A lot of people referred to him as ‘Superman,’ but he was this teddy bear, always laughing and having fun.
“He was always smiling and willing to help out,” Walker added. “He would come back home and every time he did he’d reach out to his high school friends to get together, or he’d come out to a couple track practices and work with the throwers. He was always wanting to help out in the community and be a part, that was who he was.”
Napeahi recalled how Rome, who’s listed on his Wikipedia page at 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, was far from that size when Rome was a sophomore at Marysville Pilchuck and Napeahi was a senior.
“He was a tall, gangly kid in high school,” Napeahi said. “Then his junior year he put countless hours in at the weight room and he started to develop his size.”
The weight room was also a source of one of Walker’s favorite memories of Rome.
“I remember one time he was benching, and me and a classmate who’s now my brother-in-law, we each sat on one end of the barbell when he was benching,” Walker said. “He was already doing a bunch of weight, and we sat on each end and he still put us up.
“When we were young kids he was always bigger than everyone,” Walker added. “It just wasn’t until high school that he got to be bigger than everyone put together. He worked hard, and when he put his mind to something he made it happen.”
That included making the Olympic team. During his induction speech Rome told the story of how he finished 14th at the U.S. Nationals in 2003 and was ready to retire. But after being convinced to stick with it by his mom, Rome worked his way to a first-place finish at the 2004 Olympic trials. That began a lengthy international career that also included winning a silver medal at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
“You wouldn’t know he was this superstar, because while he was a legend in the throwing community, he never came off like that,” Napeahi said. “He was very humble, very down to earth. He was larger than life, literally, but he was a very humble and respectful man.”