For Charles Jock, Opportunity Runs, Not Knocks

September 21st, 2011 in Articles by 1 Comment

If you knew the background of Charles Jock – a 21-year-old half-miler from UC Irvine –  you would give long odds that this man from war-torn Sudan would compete in track and field’s World Championship meet. Those odds would get longer if the bet was that he’d represent the United States. Jock was born during the Second Sudanese Civil War, where he and his family struggled to stay alive.

“My father moved my [immediate] family, along with relatives and family friends, from Sudan to Ethiopia through many refugee camps because of the ongoing civil war between the North and the South,” explains Jock.

After moving from camp to camp, his father, John, realized this was no way to raise a family and made the decision to head for the United States. Traveling through countries including Kenya and Ethiopia, the journey to the States was not an easy one; the Jocks faced hunger and possible imprisonment. But after a couple of years, the Jock family finally reached their final destination.

“My father did not want to raise a family in a war-filled country and brought us here because he believed it would provide us with more opportunities,” says Jock of his father’s one goal while struggling to move his family to America.

And that goal can be considered accomplished in the eyes of many. Charles Jock has made the most of his opportunities on the track: He was 2008 CIF State champion in the 800-meters; he won a scholarship to run for UC Irvine; he became 2010 Big West conference champion, and this year he represented the United States at the 2011 World Championships in the 800-meters. Much of these achievements can be attributed to the courage, bravery, and determination of his father.

With such success, one would find it hard to believe that, at first, Charles had little passion for track and field. While attending Mission Bay High School in San Diego, Jock was a prominent part of the basketball team and had no interest in the track team. It was not until one of the basketball team’s conditioning runs on the track that Jock was “discovered.” Finishing first on every run, the head track and field coach begged him to join the team.

“He pretty much started nagging me to run for him for the rest of the school year until I finally gave in and said I would try it my sophomore year, but only as a jumper,” says Jock of his transition from basketball to track and field.

With little success in the jumps, Charles Jock agreed to try the 800-meters to help out with points for the team. Running a 2:02 his first race, Jock and high school coach Emmitt Dodd believed they found his niche. Training hard for the next couple of years, Charles found himself winning the 800-meters at the 2008 California state meet, and he found many college coaches wanting him to run for their school. After visits and phone calls from prominent universities across the nation, Jock made his decision to run for UC Irvine.

“I chose to attend UC Irvine because I had a great connection with Jeff Perkins, who’s the sprints, hurdles, and jumps coach and head of recruiting. He really showed me that they’d take good care of me here,” Jock said of this major decision.

At Irvine, Charles proved to be a phenom of the Big West conference, with his 2010 championship in the 800 meters (running a 1:46.9 as a sophomore). Although he came out of his sophomore season as a conference champ, he didn’t settle and wanted to keep improving. And he did just that by dropping his time nearly a whole second.

He entered 2011 more determined than ever, setting high goals for himself and putting the time and work in to achieve them. During his season, he consistently ran times in the 1:45 range and qualified for one meet after the next. Although he was edged out of an NCAA championship by several hundredths of a second, Jock looked in great shape and with the potential to go far in the USATF Championships in Eugene.

He made it through the prelims and semifinals with ease, and everything came down to the finals – the top three runners winning the right to represent the United States at the Worlds Championships in Daegu, South Korea.  As Jock stepped to the line and the gun was about to initiate the race, the last thought that went through his mind was, “This is what I have trained for.”

Jock led the pack until about 200 meters left, and everybody else started their kick. He crossed the finish line in third place and qualified for the World Championships.

“I originally didn’t believe it and waited until I saw my name show up on the Jumbotron,” says Jock.

After qualifying in 1:44.7, Jock took some time away from the track and did more grass workouts in preparation for his big race. He transitioned into more speed work and trained with UC Santa Barbara alumnus Tetlo Emmen – running a few time trials to keep up his competitive spirit.

“I [was] extremely anxious. It [was] really hard to train like you are racing but not actually get a chance to compete… but this was probably the best thing for me because it took my body about four weeks to recover from racing hard at Conference, Regionals, NCAAs, and USAs,” Jock says.

In Daegu, unfortunately, things did not go as planned. Trapped in a slow heat in the World Championship preliminaries, Jock’s uncharacteristic 1:48 showing was not enough to advance him on time. His Daegu experience ended too soon. But you won’t hear Jock complain much.

“This year’s just been very blessed for me. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I have stayed healthy and I’ve PRd multiple times.”

And another thing is certain: coaches, family, friends, and most importantly the father who risked everything to get him to the United States, are watching him make the most of his opportunity.

Danielle Littleton is a standout hurdler for UC Riverside who qualified for the USATF Junior Nationals this summer. To contact her about this story, comment below or click here.

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Author: FasterThanForty

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