He paces back and forth before declaring the perfect spot. He stares ahead with an unfaltering look of concentration before looking back down at his feet. His fluorescent pink shoes light up the track as he bounces off his heels. He bends his back, looks ahead one last time and takes off on a full-speed sprint.
Seconds before making the big jump, he rotates his body and goes for the leap, arching his back and making it right over the bar before crashing into the cushion.
His coach claps and signals for him do it again. Although it’s attempt number five, he walks to repeat the jump with just as much effort as the first.
Known as “JP” by his coaches and teammates, John-Patrick Friday is a jumper for the University of Miami men’s track and field team. He has made the sport his life, although it wasn’t always his primary athletic ambition.
Friday was an Orlando soccer player from the ages of 5 to 14, and a basketball player until the end of his high school career. It wasn’t until the track and field coach at his high school approached him during his sophomore year that Friday began to consider the sport.
“He was like, ‘You’d probably be a really good jumper,’ and he really sold me on it, so I decided to go and try it out, and I liked it,” Friday said. “But I didn’t really get success until my junior year, when I realized I could probably go to college for it.”
Friday has already set records during his time at UM. He set a personal-best record in a high jump at the Miami Invitational 2013, and won the triple jump with a mark of 15.26m, which ranks third in school history, at the Miami Invitational in 2014. That same year, he placed second in the triple jump at the ACC Championships, with a jump of 15.34m. This year he set a men’s indoor triple jump record of 15.77m at the Nittany Lion Challenge.
“This year, I think the light bulb has gone off and he knows just how hard he has to work in order to achieve the marks that he wants,” said Jerel Langley, Friday’s jumping coach. “He’s close now to doing the things that he wants to do. He has his head on straight, he focuses on what he has to do and what we’ve been working on, and he keeps progressing each week.”
Although the junior communications major dedicates most of his time during the week to practicing in between classes and competing on weekends, Friday works to find a balance between his personal life and his responsibilities as a student athlete.
“The hardest thing would be staying on top of everything,” he said. “Everybody thinks it’s easy being a student athlete, that we get things handed to us, but in reality, we don’t. It’s about how you juggle everything and how you take care of everything you’ve got to take care of.”
His idea of a perfect day is easily summarized.
“Sleep,” he says with a laugh.
Because of his demanding schedule, the perfect day is one to get his mind off his responsibilities in school and on the track.
“I’d wake up at 11 o’clock,” he said. “After that I’d go and have a day just of activities I like to do, like go shoot some hoops, go to the movies, go bowling and just a whole day of fun activities.”
Langley appreciates Friday’s positive attitude when he makes the best of even the longest days of practice.
“He’s a big jokester; he likes to laugh,” Langley said. “But he knows when to be serious about stuff and when to have fun. And keeping that balance, especially in this sport with it being such a long season, it’s hard.”
The rigorous practicing and hard work is all for high ACC goals.
“I want to see him continue to progress and reach the top of the ACC and become a national player,” Langley said.
Amy Deem, director of track and field, sees Friday’s potential to “reach the top” as an impending reality.
“I think he’s always had high goals, but I think he’s close now,” Deem said. “I think when you really start to get close to something and you really feel like you can grab it and achieve it, that it gives you that extra motivation. And I think that’s what we’re seeing with him right now.”
As Friday continues to strive for success, there’s one thing that keeps him going each day.
“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me,” he said. “That’s what I say every day and that’s what I live by.”