Ryan Drew closes out his victory in the 2020 ASUN men's 3K.
Note: Written by Paul McCaw, this feature story first appeared in the Flames Illustrated game day program for Liberty's football game against Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 10, 2020.
February 28 and 29, 2020 were big days for Ryan Drew. He accomplished something that no Liberty runner had been able to do since national champion Sam Chelanga; sweeping the mile and 3,000-meter conference titles. However, his path to get to that point was unconventional.
Beginning his career at VMI, Drew made the Southern Conference All-Freshman cross country team, but felt an urge to make the switch to Liberty. It was a move that he felt was a clear choice.
"Coming to Liberty, it was a no-brainer for me. Being able to run for Christ has been a huge blessing," Drew beamed. "Having all of these coaches and teammates has been such a huge support for me. I couldn't have asked for a better group of guys, girls and coaches."
After deciding to transfer, Drew had to make an impression on the Liberty staff to join the roster. He competed in the 2019 Liberty Kickoff and then at the Darius Dixon Memorial Invitational where he won the mile. At that point, Liberty men's distance coach Isaac Wendland knew there was something in Drew that would make him a valuable piece for the Liberty team.
"I was really excited about him coming in. I had watched him run a few meets here unattached and I knew that he was a pretty raw talent, but he has just improved because of his work ethic," Wendland said. "He has elevated this team to stay consistent and work hard."
Drew has made a large impact since his first day at Liberty. His commitment to his craft has led to a major improvement in his times. All of his hard work and dedication converged at the 2020 ASUN Indoor Championships. On the first day of the meet, he captured the 3,000-meter crown with a personal best time of 8:14.39.
"Going into the ASUN meet, I was so nervous," Drew remembered. "I did not know what the competition would be like. I could only look at their times."
"In the 3K, I thought I could possibly get into the top three, but we were all surprised, especially myself. I went out super hard in the beginning and the chase pack caught up to me with about 1,000 meters to go and I just hung around. When the last lap came, I don't know where it came from, but I think it shows how powerful God is. It was just about the happiest moment of my life, in that 3K."
Drew was also scheduled to race the mile the following day, though his nerves had been eased following his victory in the 3,000. Again, he was victorious, while capturing some valuable points for the Flames.
"Before the 3,000, I was already super nervous the week before. Afterwards, I felt so much relief. Then, I thought, ‘maybe I can do this again in the mile tomorrow,'" Drew recalled. "The next day, I wasn't nervous at all because I knew, at that point, what I was capable of. When the race started, it went exactly the way I planned it to be. I hung out with the lead pack and with 200 to go, I was able to pass all three of the other guys in one move."
Following his personal bests in both the mile (4:08.21) and 3,000 and simultaneously playing a major role in capturing the ASUN Championship for the men's team, the season came to an abrupt halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2020 outdoor season was quickly cancelled as well. Drew has been committed to maintaining a positive attitude despite the circumstances, and is looking forward to the next time he is able to compete.
"We were all devastated with the decision. All I could do was stay as motivated and positive as possible. It was hard for all of us. We are trying to do everything we can to stay positive, motivated and fit going into the next season," Drew stated, "We are not sure how many meets we will be able to have or how far we will be able to travel."
Nonetheless, Drew and the Flames remain committed to capturing another ASUN crown and making a run at the NCAA national meet as well.