For many athletes, the hours leading up to a competition or major event are clouded with nerves and thoughts of how they’ll perform.
There was another concern, however, barreling down on Isaiah Jewett the night before what was arguably the most important race of his track career so far: writing a 10-page essay that was due the next day.
Despite his academic obligations at USC, Jewett spent the day competing in the United States Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, where he finished second in the men’s 800-meter run — earning him a spot on the U.S. Olympics Men’s Track and Field Team.
It’s the culmination of a long-held dream for Jewett, but he couldn’t exactly go out celebrating afterward. That 10-page essay and its midnight deadline were still looming.
“I have a 10-page essay due tonight,” Jewett said post-race, according to Sports Illustrated. “I’m mentally trying to re-focus and get that done because it’s due tonight, and my teacher didn’t give me an extension. So, I’m about to be grinding, [but] I’m just happy to be here. I’m just trying to get my homework done at the same time.”
Don’t worry, he did manage to complete the essay, which is unsurprising: Jewett, who is working toward his online Master of Science in Project Management at USC Bovard College, is used to balancing his track aspirations with his academic pursuits.
The star athlete also attended USC during his undergraduate years before immediately leaping into the master’s program, all while continually breaking his own records on the USC Track and Field team.
“For school, I think a great representation of my motivation is my mom and my sisters. They always demanded excellence on and off the field. My sister was a valedictorian, and my other sister was a salutatorian. I try to reach their levels as best I can with what I’m doing. My girlfriend, too, motivates me: She actually has a 4.0 GPA in dental school, which is amazing, and I’m just trying to keep up with her,” he told USC Online.
So, why did Jewett decide to head right back into another year of school instead of solely focusing on the Olympics? After all, graduate school is no small commitment, and it’s hard to believe any Olympian has plenty of free time to fill.
“A lot of my friends say when you’re out of college, it’s a lot harder to go back, to get the necessary motivation to go ahead and complete [graduate school]. I want to knock out as much as I can before I’m done with college. Getting a master’s degree provides a lot more opportunity,” he said.
It was at USC that Jewett realized a different career goal, other than becoming one of the greatest runners in the world: working in anime. Jewett said he always loved anime and cartoons, but it wasn’t until he spoke with a USC advisor that he realized working in animation could be a pursuable career path.
“He kind of brought my dream into reality and made me realize it’s what I really wanted to do,” he said.
The MS in Project Management program “made sense” to Jewett because it would teach him the necessary skills to break into the business and operations side of the animation field.
“I’ve learned there’s so much more that goes on behind the scenes of a business with project management classes,” he said.
While obtaining his master’s degree has undoubtedly been worth it, Jewett will be the first to admit it isn’t easy balancing both his Olympic training and higher education.
“I train during the morning, and in the afternoon, I eat lunch and take a nap. After that, I start homework at night or do my classes in the evening,” he described. “I think the hardest part is traveling. The hours change depending on where you are, which makes it hard to focus. And then, you have to balance doing your work on top of the nerves you have with the race. There’s no race, no competition where you’re not nervous. I was having a tough time writing my essay before trials because I was so nervous.”
But here Jewett is, on the brink of graduating from USC and heading to the Olympics. The key, according to him, is keeping your eyes on the dream and not letting your mind trick you into giving up. That’s how Jewett has made it this far, despite the challenge of his early track days.
“I started [running] in middle school, and I was not fast at all. I never made the Junior Olympics team. Even in high school, it was tough — there were just a lot of people who were really fast — but I had a dream. I wanted to continue to go down this path whether I could make it or not. I didn’t want to stop. I continued going and slowly started getting better,” he recalled.
Jewett emphasized that determination was crucial to achieving both of his goals, even when they didn’t always seem likely. In a rousing speech that almost made this interviewer head out to buy running sneakers, Jewett admitted he occasionally wanted to throw in the towel, but he knew the sideline temptations weren’t worth losing his ultimate ambition.
“I think half the battle is sticking to it. What people don’t tell you is the fact that there are days you don’t want to do it, [and] your mind tells you so many things to make giving up sound OK. It gives you opportunities to lose your dream. It’s little voices saying other things you could be doing, maybe easier or more fun things, and there are times when you want to listen. But those things my mind offered, it wasn’t my original dream. I refused to listen and kept working and sticking to it,” he concluded.
With his time at USC ending, Jewett knows he wants to continue on in the realm of track and field. He’s also confident about breaking into the world of anime.
In fact, when asked what he’s most excited about when it comes to the Olympics (other than competing, of course), Jewett quickly answered it’s the chance to visit Japan, where anime was created. Jewett knows it’s possible he won’t have the time to explore the country, but he remains hopeful he’ll be able to do some sort of tour and connect with professionals in the anime industry.
“I keep mentioning anime in these interviews. I mean, hey, maybe somebody will read it and set it up!” he exclaimed.
Now, Jewett’s future is glittering with visions of running faster and faster and finally working in anime. But first, he has an Olympic medal to win.
Learn more about the online Master of Science in Project Management program today.