Ryan Waite will not wait for success: Cross country coach makes it happen
Associate Sports Editor
The year was 2007, and the stage was set. Current University of Delaware head cross country and assistant track and field coach Ryan Waite looked to qualify for a spot in the 800-meter run at the 2007 U.S.A. Track & Field Pan American Games in Brazil.
To do so, he needed to place in the top two of the USA Junior Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
For Waite, to have the opportunity to represent the United States would check off a major goal of his. He had beaten most of his competition before the junior championships and saw no reason why he could not do this again.
That thought stayed in his mind until he got to the starting line, but in that moment everything changed.
He started to question himself asking: “Am I even the same person that won against these guys before?”
Once the gun went off and the race underway, Waite’s focus stayed on the questions he asked himself on the line.
“Before I knew it I wasn’t even in the pack anymore, I was in last place and the pack was pulling away from me,” Waite said.
On that day in Indianapolis, he did not finish the race.
Prior to the race in Indianapolis, Waite had just finished his freshman year as a middle distance runner at the University of Oregon, where he saw himself compete at the PAC-10 championships and his team win the PAC-10 athletic conference.
In his first year at Oregon, Waite fought an uphill battle. He suffered from severe allergies while in Eugene, and this in turn hindered his ability to workout and recover properly on a day-to-day basis.
“My entire freshman year I just felt like I was behind the entire time,” Waite said. “I remember almost every workout being the last guy across the line in every workout and it was just so frustrating.”
Waite, originally from the Pacific Northwest, dreamed of attending Oregon, and after he won two Oregon high school state titles in the 800-meter run and placed third in the 800-meter run at Nike Outdoor Nationals his senior year in 2006, this dream became a reality.
Still, he and his coaches felt he had more in him. Waite had also gone astray from the idea of the process of working his way up to get better and instead saw success as a systemic, set-in-stone routine for an individual to succeed.
“I could tell that [the coaches] were banging their heads against the wall and were frustrated because they knew I was capable of more,” Waite said. “I quit paying attention to the process and was so focused on the logical steps and I was so focused on the steps that I wasn’t doing things that were going to get me to the next step.”
Shortly after his freshman year at Oregon and the U.S. junior championships, Waite attended a two-year mission trip from 2007 to 2009 in San Fernando, California. There he met Ryan Jones, a middle distance runner at Brigham Young University (BYU).
The two became close on the trip. At that same time, Waite reached out to multiple Division I programs and heard back from all of them, including BYU.
While on the sidelines of a pick-up basketball game, Jones recalled the two talking for 30 to 45 minutes about their experiences at BYU and Oregon during their freshman years. At the moment, Jones saw it as nothing more than a conversation, while Waite found much needed insight on the running program at BYU.
“He sold me, without even realizing it,” Waite said. “As we were talking and kind of trading notes on what our first year of running collegiately was like, everything that he was saying to me I was just like, ‘That’s what I want.’”
After returning from their mission, Waite roomed with Jones during his first year at BYU. Having Jones by his side, Waite felt a part of the team from the jump and got to know his new teammates quickly through his friendship with Jones.
The two also started off as 800-meter training partners, and Jones even ended up introducing Waite to his future wife.
His adjustment to the team and campus went well, however Waite still needed to get back into peak physical shape. While on his mission trip, he gained 30 pounds and once at BYU had to take into account the altitude.
For his first ever morning run in Utah, he looked to do an easy four to five miles. Waite ended up going only a mile and a half before walking back.
The first few months for Waite did not get any easier, but as his training progressed Waite started to be at the hip of teammates who ran the 800 in less than one minute, 50 seconds and were regularly scoring for the team. It gave him the confidence he needed.
“When I was at BYU, I once again started focusing on the process of how to become a successful student-athlete rather than just focusing on the results,” Waite said.
In the spring, Waite planned to get redshirted, but kept running solo as a way to still get out on track. That same spring, he paid his way out to the Stanford Invitational. After sleeping on his teammate’s uncle’s floor the night prior, Waite ran 1:48 in the 800. A huge personal best. That day after the race, his coaches offered him a spot on the roster and a scholarship.
From that point on, Waite won two conference titles in the 800-meter run and the 4×400 meter relay in 2010 and also earned all-conference honors in the 800-meter run in 2010. Waite also qualified twice to the national Indoor Championships and three times to the national Outdoor Championships.
After finishing his eligibility, Waite needed an internship in order to graduate. He stayed with the team and assumed the role of student assistant from 2013 to 2014. From 2014 to 2016, he served as the director of track and field operations.
In the summer of 2016, Waite came across the head coaching position at Delaware. His peers, including his former coach at BYU Ed Eyestone, BYU women’s cross country coach Diljeet Taylor and his wife, all encouraged him to take a serious look at the position.
Waite came out to visit the university and interviewed with athletic director Chrissi Rawak while he was on campus.
“She said she wanted cross country to be great at the university,” Waite said. “You could tell that she felt passionate about it.”
Shortly after visiting Delaware, Waite accepted the job and he and his family moved across the country to Newark. Since joining the staff in 2016, he has played a key role in the team’s success.
Waite helped coach the women’s team to a CAA spring track and field title in 2019 and as head cross country coach helped the Blue Hens place second at the CAA Championships in the fall of 2019.
He also played a major role in Liz McGroarty and Michaela Meyer qualifying for NCAA East Prelims in 2018 and 2019. This winter Meyer also became the first ever track athlete at Delaware to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 800.
As Waite continues his journey as a coach, he still uses the lessons he learned while competing to get the most out of the athletes.
“If you focus on the process, you are able to tell yourself about what the positives are in that process,” Waite said. “Our mindset is so much bigger than the physical things we actually do, and when you focus on the process more then the outcome, you are able to control your mind to believing things are positive.”