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Learning real lessons for real life

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Anderson native John Updike endured twists leading to chosen career

By John Herndon

John Updike earned a third-place finish in the Mid-South Conference track meet this spring, but that did not warrant a mention on his Facebook account.

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There was just a photo of the Anderson County native throwing the discus with the caption, “My last throw as a Blue Raider.”

About a week later, however, Updike posted, “In less than six days I will be the first person from my family to graduate college.”

That was worth talking about!

He walked across off stage at Lindsey Wilson College at Columbia, bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice in hand, and a lifetime of memories and lessons learned from being one of the best throwers the track and field program at Anderson County High School has ever produced.

“Most of the time, I hated it,” Updike chuckles. “I had to do it every day, but track taught me discipline.”

Which should serve Updike very well as he pursues a career as a corporate attorney and dreams of one day being a judge.

“When I was a kid, I was like ever other kid in the state. I wanted to play basketball at UK,” Updike says of his lifelong love of the Kentucky Wildcats.

While he did play two years of high school basketball, Updike saw his ticket to college athletics being in track and field, where he threw the discus and shot for Anderson County.

It all started with a Field Day at Emma B. Ward School, which, at the time, was located where the freshman center at the high school is today. Updike was in the second grade.

“I threw the softball and the discus,” he smiles. “The first time I picked the discus up, I threw it 49 feet.”

Ten years later, that had improved to over 150 feet and had earned Updike berths in the state high school meet three times. “My best throw was 158 feet, but I scratched,” he says, recalling the day when a judge ruled he had just nicked the foul line.

It still gnaws at Updike a bit four years later, but all worked out.

He got the opportunity to attend Lindsey Wilson, where it seems like fate directed Updike in the direction of his chosen career.

On the track, Updike gave up the shot put – “I am not built for the shot put and my shoulder could not take it,” Updike says – but discovered the hammer throw, which is not a part of high school competitions. Until this year, Updike held the school's indoor hammer throw record. His best throw, indoors or outside, topped 146 feet.

Along the way, Updike actually ran a cross country meet for the Blue Raiders and changed his dreams.

The cross country team was short-handed and recruited Updike to run the 8K race at Shawnee State. “I ran it in 42 minutes,” Updike smiles. “I was the last one to finish, but I didn't quit. I ran the last 2.5 miles with a stress fracture.”

It might have been an microcosm of Updike's college experience, which went from studying to be a pharmacist to the path toward the legal system.

“I went to Lindsey Wilson mainly because of academics,” Updike says. “I went there to study pharmacology. I took every AP course in high school to study to be a pharmacist.”

But after one year in Columbia, Updike found himself without a major and almost with a new school and new team. He says Lindsey Wilson dropped its pharmacology program, prompting him to look elsewhere.

“I was about to go to Eastern (Kentucky University),” he says. “We had talked about throwing for them.”

But Updike met Dariann Smith, a student at the school who would eventually be named Lindsey Wilson Homecoming Queen last fall.

He decided to stay in Columbia, changed his major and now is awaiting word from several law schools, including the University of Louisville, concerning his acceptance.

“And I am a Wildcat fan,” Updike laughs, “but U of L is an awesome school.”

It was not the path Updike had envisioned, but life often has those unexpected turns.

“When they dropped Pharmacology, it was like, 'I have worked my butt off. I am not going to drop out,'” he says. “I have always wanted to help people.”

Along the way, Updike earned NAIA Academic All-American honors three times and was accepted into Alpha Phi Sigma, a Criminal Justice honors society.

He also served a six-month internship with the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and is currently working as a deputy jailer in Adair County, where Lindsey Wilson is located.

Updike is also working at Lowe's in Campbellsville until he moves on to law school

Confidentiality laws do not allow Updike to talk about those government jobs other than to say, “It was very interesting.” The experiences, however, have solidified his belief that he his new path is the right one.

His final time on the track came in April when his hammer throw of 133 feet, 9 inches placed third in the Mid-South meet. He placed seventh in the discus, which is 4.5 pounds heavier than the high school disc, at 123 feet.

Some da, there might be a return to the track for Updike. The key words are, “Some day.”

While at Lindsey Wilson, Updike helped coach throwers at Adair County High School for a season and he has often run into former Anderson coaches Travis Gay and Robert Meacham, both now at Adair.

“I enjoyed it, but right now, I am done,” Updike says.

Real life, and the lessons learned in track, awaits.