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The Carletonian

Freshman starts his Carleton career in full gear

<rleton College class of 2020 moved in earlier this month, many of them were taking one of the biggest steps of their lives. The
majority of the Class of 2020 are fresh out of high school, and some have never been away from home for a long period of time. Very few have held a full-time job. Even fewer of them have pursued a career as a semi-professional athlete. And then there is Ezra Ward-Packard, ’20. As a 22-year-old Carleton freshman who is commencing his undergraduate experience after three years in work as competitive cyclist, he breaks the typical firstyear mold in multiple aspects. If he started college the year after graduating from high school in 2013, he would now be among the college’s current seniors.

Ward-Packard, however, downplays this fact. “I really don’t think it’s that much of a big age difference,” he said. So what made Ward-Packard take this hiatus from academia to pursue cycling as a temporary career? Growing up in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Ward-Packard participated primarily in track and cross country. He explained that he first took up competitive cycling in high school due to multiple injuries that affected his ability to continue playing other sports. Ward-Packard also had begun watching cycling teams such as Team Novo Nordisk, which is based in Atlanta. However, at the time, the fact that it was cycling team was less important to him than the fact that it was a team entirely comprised of diabetic cyclists.

Ward-Packard himself was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was 12, which made him interested in multiple diabetic sports team around the country. “[Novo Nordisk] was just one of the groups I found that were meant to empower diabetic athletes,” he said. During his senior year of high school, Ward-Packard saw on Facebook that Novo Nordisk was hiring new cyclists. He sent in an application and was soon accepted. Based upon the schedule of team training, Ward-Packard arranged his schedule so that he could graduate early. “Literally from taking my last final in high school, I drove to the airport, got on an airplane and flew to my first training camp in Italy,” he said.

The ten-day training program in Italy was followed by a move to, a team house in Alpharetta, Georgia, which was to be his home for the next few years. He emphasized the close bond he formed with his teammates throughout this time. “We all lived together, we all trained together
and then we all raced together,” he said.

Since Ward-Packard settled into Alpharetta in 2013, his life has primarily consisted of training and competing, a full time job. While most races took place in the local southeastern US area, the team had some more major trips to California, Minnesota and overseas. He describes the level of competition as “comparable to Minor League Baseball.”

Ward-Packard was undecided college-wise at the time he decided to pursue Novo Nordisk his senior year. Thus, he had to go through the college application process all over again last year. “It was kind of stressful,” he admitted with a laugh. “Applying to college for the second time was difficult because I had to re-dig into my high school records and contact old teachers for recommendations.” However, time around Ward-Packard had experience in his cycling career, which he said he made the prominent feature in his application.

Once he actually got to Carleton, Ward-Packard said he experienced a whole new level of stress because he had been separated from academia for the last few years. This interview was conducted during the first week of fall term and Ward- Packard emphasized that the week had involved tremendous effort in adjustment to having classes, homework and exams again.

“Right now, I’m just trying to re-remember everything,” he said. “It’s like jumping into the deep end after three years of no academics.” However, he does not regret the years he took off to pursue a sport he is passionate about. “I definitely plan to continue cycling,” Ward-
Packard said. “But this time, at the collegiate level.”

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