Belmont runner John Sharpe was given a second chance when he came to Belmont, and the senior has made the most of it.
Sharpe, a native of Oak Ridge, Tenn., transferred to Belmont from North Carolina State after the 2011 season and has become one of Belmont’s top runners since he made the move. Sharpe decided to leave Raleigh, N.C. after a rough year at NC State.
“I was running about as slow as I was my junior year of high school, and so I immediately started looking to transfer. I just wasn’t happy,” said Sharpe. “When I was transferring, I only really looked at one place.”
Jeff Langdon, the director of cross-country and track and field, pursued Sharpe as a recruit out of Oak Ridge High School and happily welcomed him to the team in 2012.
“John was a state champion in cross-country his senior year, and obviously we’re going to try to recruit the best in Tennessee,” said Langdon. “When he visited, I could tell he was a man of good character and someone we would want in our program academically, athletically and spiritually. He was the whole package.”
Sharpe cites a fifth-place finish alongside teammate and mentor Matt Miller in the 10K at the 2014 OVC Outdoor Championships as a personal career highlight of his time at Belmont.
“It was my first breakthrough track race where I felt like I finally raced to my potential,” said Sharpe. “Crossing the finish line, looking over and finishing with Matt was a moment that I’ll never forget.”
Miller, a graduate assistant for Belmont, was teammates with Sharpe for two years and can vouch for Sharpe’s dedication.
“He’s dedicated to everything that he does, really, from school to athletics, and it carries over to his teammates,” said Miller. “He’s a great leader, and he genuinely cares about everybody on the team. It goes beyond running with him.”
Sharpe’s other career highlights in track and field include 10th-place finishes in the 5000-meter at the 2013 OVC Indoor Championship and 2014 OVC Outdoor Championship. The senior also captured a win in the 3000-meter at the 2014 Saluki Open.
On the cross-country route, Sharpe earned 24th-place finish in 2013 OVC Championship last season. This season the runner has several top-25 finishes, including 12th place at the 2014 Cowboy Classic and 18th place at the 2014 Belmont Classic.
When he first came to Belmont, Sharpe had high expectations for himself, but he reconsidered those expectations after a tough start to his first season with the Bruins.
“After I struggled the first year here, it switched to, ‘Hey, let’s just see what I can do,’” said Sharpe. “Let’s take it one day at a time, one season at a time, and it has grown from there.”
Sharpe has high hopes for his last season, and he is hopeful that he can make All-Region in cross-country. Langdon agreed.
“I think John has a good grasp of the level of competition he is trying to get to,” said Langdon. “Making Top 25 or All-Region, that’s certainly within grasp, and I think that would be a great goal.”
With graduation around the corner, the social entrepreneurship major plans to apply for graduate school and hopes to become a professor in economics.
As he enters his final year, Sharpe is anxious to start running competitively again.
“I’m excited to see what I can do, and, now that I’ve figured out my plans after graduation, I think it’s something I’m not dreading anymore,” said Sharpe.
Sharpe and the rest of the cross-country team will complete in Ohio Valley Conference Regionals on Nov. 1 before track and field season starts in December.
Photo courtesy of Belmont athletics